Because your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) is so central to your daily living, it’s natural to wonder about how it’s covered by your home insurance. No one wants to suffer through a hot Florida summer or cold New England winter with their HVAC on the fritz!
Like most things in insurance, whether or not your homeowners policy covers your HVAC depends largely on the type of loss you have. But before we dive into loss scenarios, let’s make sure everyone understands the different ways home insurance might cover HVAC units.
How does home insurance cover HVAC?
Damage to HVAC units is typically covered in one of two coverage parts in home insurance. These are:
If your HVAC system is considered part of the home, then it’s likely covered by dwelling coverage. If you have a portable unit, then it probably falls under your personal property coverage.
When does home insurance cover HVAC?
For your home insurance policy to cover your HVAC unit, a covered peril has to have caused the loss. Covered perils typically include things like fire or lightning strikes. If the damage is caused by a covered peril – that is, by an incident your homeowners insurance can pay for – then the damage to your AC or heater is probably covered.
Let’s say a direct lightning strike fries your central AC unit. In that case, there’s a good chance your insurance will pay to repair or replace it. That’s because lightning damage is covered by most standard home insurance policies.
The same is true for fire damage. If the unit is damaged as a result of a home fire, then the unit can probably be replaced. Again, this may come out of dwelling coverage or personal property coverage.
Does home insurance cover damage to window AC units?
While central air conditioning units are typically categorized as part of the structure of your house, window units are usually considered personal property. In practice, that means that your window unit is less likely to be covered.
In many policies, like HO3 policies, central AC units have coverage for “open perils,” meaning they’re covered for anything not explicitly excluded. A window unit, on the other hand, is likely only covered for “named perils,” meaning it’s covered for only events that are specifically listed.
Every policy is different, though, so check with your agent to find out what kind of coverage you have. In some cases, you may be able to secure coverage by scheduling your window unit specifically in your policy.
When doesn’t home insurance cover HVAC?
You will likely have to pay for damage to your HVAC caused by events and perils not covered by your homeowners policy. For example, if your AC unit is ruined in a flood, your homeowners policy likely won’t offer coverage because flooding is excluded on most policies.
Another important consideration: normal wear and tear isn’t covered. In fact, neglecting the system and having it break is not covered either. If your AC goes kaput after living a good life, it’s up to you to replace it.
Does home insurance cover damage caused by your HVAC?
Up until now, we’ve looked at situations where an event damages your HVAC system. But what happens if your HVAC actually causes the damage? Let’s take a look at a couple of examples to sort things out.
Damage caused by AC units
Air conditioners create water as they operate (as anyone who’s walked under a dripping window unit knows all too well). If your AC unit isn’t properly maintained, that water can
get into your home and cause damage
. And here’s the thing: if the leaking happens because you didn’t properly maintain the unit, your homeowners insurance may not cover the damage.
That’s because part of the contract with the insurance provider is that you must take steps to keep your home in good repair. Fail to do that, and you’ve essentially broken the contract, meaning the insurance company doesn’t have to provide coverage.
Your best bet here is to keep your air conditioner in good working order, even if that means calling in an inspector every season. The cost of an inspection will almost certainly be less than the cost of repairing water damage your unit might otherwise cause.
Damage caused by furnaces
If your furnace causes a fire in your home, your insurance policy likely covers the damage. That’s because fire is a covered peril on most standard homeowners insurance policies. The cost of replacing your furnace? That’s probably not covered.
As with AC units, it’s your job as a homeowner to keep your furnace in good working order. Part of that means making sure there are functioning carbon monoxide and smoke detectors to alert you of any problems before they cause serious damage or put you in danger.
Maintaining your HVAC dystem
It’s easy to forget about HVAC appliances – which operate very much in the background – until they stop working. But scheduling regular maintenance can save you money on heating and cooling bills and help prevent damage caused by worn-out systems.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in September 2018. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.