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A/C home service contracts not always best for homeowners


A Phoenix woman says the home service contract on her air-conditioning unit is not delivering the anticipated benefits. She's now going to maintain her air conditioning in a way that could be good for many other consumers.

Five-year home service contracts are common, nearly every Cooling & Heating company in Arizona offers them. Some consumers value the free maintenance and repair discounts offered in these contracts, but they are not for every consumer. These agreements may limit your options and the discounts are hard to measure.

"I got a $600, five-year, maintenance contract," Becky Lehman said.

Lehman says she entered into the contract with Air Care Cooling & Heating strictly for the free maintenance and the promised discounts on repairs. The first time her unit had a problem, Lehman says an Air Care tech replaced a circuit board for around $900 and added a surge protector for around $100. Lehman had the box the new board came in, so she went online to research what kind of deal she just got.

"That part we could have bought as a consumer, delivered to our house, for $81," Lehman said.

Lehman says she found surge protectors online for around $40. She says all the work took the Air Care tech around 15 minutes to complete. Lehman says the promised discounts under the service contract didn't seem to exist, so she complained to Air Care and the company gave her an $800 refund.

"I'm very appreciative that Air Care considered the situation and did refund the fair amount," Lehman said.

The unit works fine now, but Lehman says she's done with home service contracts. She plans to service her air conditioner on a year-to-year basis only.

"I would establish a relationship with a contractor that I trusted, word of mouth from someone who said this person does a nice fair job," Lehman said.

Lehman says she's learned that service contract discounts aren't always real, and a long-term commitment to one company isn't good for everybody.

"It may lead you to not investigate what you are getting for your money. You need to investigate," Lehman said.

Air Care Cooling & Heating resolved this matter before being contacted by CBS 5 News and Lehman says the company did a good job on her unit. A man who would only say his name was "Tony" and claiming to be the company general manager told CBS 5 News that the problem was a billing mistake and that the company fixed it right away. Tony also told CBS 5 news that Air Care service agreements can be canceled at any time.

Cancellation is a key feature. If consumers are considering a home service contract, they should make sure they can cancel and get a prorated refund.

But for some, it may be better to pass on the service contract, service your air conditioner year-to-year, and have relationships with more than one reputable cooling company.

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