Furnace Sticker Shock: Can homeowners really void their new home warranty coverage?

New home owner? You don’t need us to tell you that you just made a huge investment. Like you, many new home owners are keen to entertain ways that may save them additional costs or delay additional purchases. Some new home buyers for example decide not to purchase their air conditioner through their builder. Sometimes this decision is based on a need versus want choice. You may want a cooler house in the summer, but maybe you don’t need it. At least not now. Some buyers think that they can find a cheaper price and wait until after they move in to find someone else to install it. There’s nothing wrong with that. Or is there?

What some builders suggest

Some builders and their trades may want you to believe there is. They will suggest to you, either verbally or through a sticker strategically positioned on your furnace, that if you hire someone else to install your air conditioner then you void the warranty coverage on your furnace. The argument is that someone else has altered their work – or perhaps even compromised it – and so how can they possibly be expected to provide a warranty on the furnace when someone else had the opportunity to tamper with it by installing an air conditioning unit to the furnace?

On the face of it, this may seem compelling. But don’t be fooled. This kind of blanket statement is inaccurate, and from Tarion’s perspective can lead to a lot of confusion and unnecessary worry on the part of some new home owners.

Digital Thermostat with a male hand, set to 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Saved with clipping path for thermostat and hand combined.

When their builder’s customer service representative discovered that they had an air conditioner installed by a third party, she tried to wipe the builders hands clean of the matter.

A couple’s story

New home owners like Alexei and Natasha (not their real names), took possession of their new home in early spring. Shortly after that, they bought their own air conditioning unit and hired a professional contractor to install it for them.

During the first winter in their new home, they noticed that their furnace was making too much noise and wasn’t heating their home properly. Since the new home warranty covers mechanical distribution systems for two years, they decided to call their builder for help. When their builder’s customer service representative discovered that they had an air conditioner installed by a third party, she tried to wipe the builders hands clean of the matter. She explained to the couple that, from the builder’s perspective, it was impossible to know what changes the air conditioning contractor might have made. As a result, the builder felt it could no longer take responsibility for the warranty on the furnace.

This came as a shock to Alexei and Natasha, especially since they had only just started using their home’s furnace. Thankfully, they did not accept the builder’s position or, worse, hire someone else to do the repairs. Instead they called Tarion for clarification.

Setting the record straight

We explained to Alexei and Natasha that the first step to understanding the situation was to focus on the problem itself. Yes, if the third party who installed their air conditioner caused a problem to the furnace, then the builder could not be held responsible under the warranty to correct the issue. This would fall under “alterations, deletions, or additions to the home that were made by the homeowner”, and the warranty is clear about not covering that.

However, if the problem with the furnace had nothing to do with how the air conditioning was installed, the builder would definitely be required to fix it (assuming that the problem was a warranted item and fell within the appropriate warranty period). So, the builder should have investigated the problem and determined the cause.

A warranty restored

In the end, that’s what finally happened. Turns out that the problem with Alexei and Natasha’s furnace was not related to their air conditioning, and their builder made the necessary repair.

While everything worked out for Alexi and Natasha, we thought their saga could serve as a good learning opportunity for other new home owners. If you are unsure about your warranty rights and responsibilities, ask us.

Do you have a story?

If you’ve experienced something similar with your builder, we’d love to hear about it and be able to share it so that other new home buyers and owners may become more informed about their warranty rights.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Adding air conditioning to your home after you have moved in, does not automatically void warranty coverage on your furnace.
  2. The warranty does not cover “alterations, deletions, or additions to the home that were made by the homeowner”.
  3. If you are in doubt about your new home’s warranty coverage, contact Tarion.