Now that the long, cold days of winter are here, homeowners rely heavily on their heat to keep them warm and avoid the chill.
The last thing they want to experience is a broken furnace. Heating system repairs average $284 nationally for minor fixes and $4,255 for full replacements.
Homeowners may think their home insurance will cover the expense, but that's not always the case.
Here's a guide to the types of damage you may encounter and whether homeowners insurance will foot the bill.
Types of Heating Systems and Common Issues
There are plenty of heating options available to homeowners today. The most common are natural gas, electric, propane and oil. The type you use will depend on your location and climate. Each heating option has its own unique advantages and care plan.
The majority of U.S. homes are heated by furnaces, with 47% of households using natural gas and 36% using electricity. The furnace blows air through ducts and delivers the warm air to individual rooms through vents throughout the home. This type of system requires ongoing maintenance to ensure the filter is changed and the moving pieces are clean. Common problems include a malfunctioning thermostat, pilot control issues and lack of heating.
Radiant floor heating is the most popular form of radiant heating. While underfloor heating is currently a less popular option, experts predict it will grow by 7.5% by 2023. Radiant heat funnels heat directly to floors and walls through hidden pipes or electric cables that are connected to the furnace. Depending on the type of floor heating, homeowners may experience broken circular pumps, inefficient heating and air bubbles that prevent heat from flowing.
Oil and Propane
Oil or propane is used in 11% of U.S. household heating systems. The oil or propane is stored in tanks and pumped into the home, creating heat that is pushed into rooms through baseboards or radiators. The tanks require ongoing maintenance and must be kept outside, which introduces potential problems. Homeowners typically struggle with keeping the tank safe from nearby hazards, such as falling trees, and the elements, such as rain and wind. Tank leaks are also a common problem, especially when owners don't follow proper safety steps.
Insurance Scenarios to Consider
Your lender may require you to maintain homeowners insurance, which typically covers the structure of the home, personal belongings, liability claims and additional living expenses. However, the policy will typically only cover damage that results from specific covered perils. So whether or not insurance will pay for heating system repairs, depends primarily on what event caused the system to break.
Covered perils may include fire, falling objects, vandalism, certain types of water damage and other events that are typically unpredictable. If your heating system is damaged by a covered peril—for example, a tree falls on the oil tank—then your homeowners insurance should pay to repair or replace the system once you file a claim with the insurer.
On the other hand, homeowner’s insurance policies also come with a list of incidents they won't cover. These may include normal wear and tear or damage resulting from neglect. If your system needs replacing but the insurer won't cover it, then you can check whether the system is covered under a warranty. Otherwise, you'll have to pay for the repairs out of pocket.
Related Damage from Heater Issues
Sometimes heating units cause other types of damage to your home. For example, improper cleaning causes 28% of home heating fires. When a heating system causes a fire or other type of secondary damage to your home, homeowners insurance generally covers the damage and pays to replace or rebuild the damaged property.
However, insurance won't provide coverage if the homeowner failed to make necessary repairs or maintain the unit and the neglect caused more damage. Heating system components are also sometimes damaged by pets or pests, and homeowners insurance typically won't cover this type of damage either.
Maxime Rieman is Product Manager at ValuePenguin. Educating and assisting shoppers about financial products has been Rieman's focus, which led her to joining ValuePenguin, a consumer research and advice company based in New York. Previously, she was product marketing director at CoverWallet and launched the personal insurance team at NerdWallet.
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