by DAN JAPE of Reliable Heating & Air originally published May 2008
In the past few months, there have been many severe hail storms in and around the Metro Atlanta area and many homeowners have had damage to their air conditioners that is costing them many hundreds of dollars in wasted energy dollars and their insurance companies are misleading them in a effort to reduce their losses.
Your air conditioner remove heat from your home by pulling air through a coil that is very much like the radiator in your car. This coil/radiator has fins made of thin sheets of aluminum bonded to copper tubing and when these fins were struck by hail in the recent storms, they were bent and damaged to the point of reducing and changing the airflow properties of your home’s cooling unit. These fins are critical in the operation and efficiency of your air conditioner and they can’t be repaired. Most of the insurance companies handling these storm damage claims refuse to help the homeowners with these damaged air conditioners due to the fact that it is very expensive to replace these damaged coils.
The outdoor unit and the indoor cooling coils are now a matched set and in 2007 the federal government mandated that all air conditioners be 13 seer or better. This means that insurance companies must spend $2800 to $4000 to bring you back to the point you were before the storm and the fact that the majority of the air conditioners that were damaged were 8 or 10 seer means the homeowner is getting something more efficient than they had before and this is apparently the sticking point with these companies. They don’t seem to mind replacing the roofs or gutters damaged in these storms because they can be repaired with like quality and kind. But the fact that they have to “upgrade” a damaged cooling system has been the source of many problems for homeowners.
Insurance companies have been telling homeowners that this damage is just cosmetic and they can simply comb out the damaged fins with a coil comb and have an air conditioning contractor straighten out the smashed fins. This will never work and will not bring back the cooling efficiency and air flow the unit had prior to the storm. This would be similar to your insurance telling you to beat out the damaged fender in you car with a hammer after a wreck and insisting you be happy with the results.
Except in this case, you will suffer by higher cooling bills and lost cooling capacity for many years to come if these units are not properly repaired and replaced. Do not let your insurance mislead you into not pressing a claim on you air conditioner just due to fact that it still “cools”. If your cooling unit was dented by hail and the fins of your coil were bent, you will never have the same cooling you had before and your insurance company knows this. There is no way to put an exact dollar amount on what it will cost you, but over years of operation, it could be many hundreds of wasted energy dollars. Insist your insurance company treat this damage the same way they are treating your roof, replace it or repair it will a new or like kind product.
As an update to the above blog, we found many of the a/c units that were just combed out like the insurance companies promoted failed completely due to a lack of refrigerant. The razor sharp edge of the aluminum fins cut through and weakened the copper tubing of the coil causing a complete loss of refrigerant. Insurance companies have taken advantage of many policy holders by insisting that this hail damage was not a functional problem, but only a cosmetic problem. But aren’t a number of issues an insurance company deals with simply cosmetic. There job is to restore a customer back to where they were before the damage occurred, not to argue and deny a legitimate claim. The really sad story behind all this is the insurance companies paid for thousands of twenty year old roofs without flinching and many of these claims were simply fraud. The people who had legitimate damage were in many cases turned away. Call me if I can help. 770 594-9969