According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are between 2.5 million and 3 million residential furnaces and air conditioning units that fail every year.  Some of the systems have functioned perfectly for decades, but historic performance isn’t indicative of the future.

Many homeowners don’t know how to contact their HVAC manufacturer or a warranty company when something breaks. Here’s what you need to know to make sure you’re not trapped in a hot house or left out in the cold.

When The HVAC Fails In The First Year
Most manufacturers will cover parts and labor in the first year. A dealer for a particular manufacturer should also honor the manufacturer’s warranty but don’t expect them to check or verify it for you.

Sometimes, the contractor doing the work will charge a warranty processing fee even when the cost of the replacement parts are covered under warranty. The charge is in addition to the labor costs to fix the problem.

Of course, this is not something you should stand for if everything is covered in your warranty. These types of fees are also not standard in the industry and are usually negotiable. If possible, try to find another company that doesn’t charge a processing fee.

If you’re having problems with these HVAC products, for example, the dealer has a generous warranty and service option. Not all dealers are like this though.

Some dealers bill a flat fee for the appointment, instead of charging a fee for time and materials.

Ideally, what you’re looking for is a situation where warrantied parts are subtracted from the total bill.

When You Should Consider Getting a Second Opinion
If you’ve gone through several service calls and you’re still having problems getting the issue resolved, it might be time for a second opinion. But, be aware that some dealers void their warranty if you bring in outside labor and have them do the work. At a very minimum, you will be paying for the new contractor’s labor costs.

Before you hire a third party, ask the manufacturer’s technical field assistant or representative for advice on how to proceed.

Escalating A Problem
If you’re experiencing multiple unsuccessful repair attempts, and the HVAC unit is fairly new, you might want to consider taking your problem directly to the manufacturer for resolution.

If you are polite, civil, but “squeaky,” you may find that the manufacturer is willing to replace your system with a brand new one.

Warranties On HVAC Units
Usually, a warranty will cover manufacturing defects and, within the first year, even parts and labor. Outside of this initial warranty period, nothing is covered unless you buy an extended warranty. The extended warranties for HVAC units are sometimes very generous.

They include parts, and a portion of the labor, less a service fee. Sometimes, just a service fee is charged. The idea behind these warranties is that it is often much cheaper to pay for the warranty than to have the HVAC system fixed or replaced out of pocket.

Stella D. McMaster is an air quality specialist. She enjoys writing about her experiences in the field. Her articles are posted on many homeowner and DIY sites.