Hurricane season is here again. We already have one named storm churning away in the Gulf. Is it a storm worthy of the news attention it is getting? Nope. Is it a storm that should make you take notice of what time of year it is? Yup.
Over the years many have said that if you don’t learn from history you are doomed to repeat it. Let’s refresh out memories about some history less than a year old. On September 10, 2017 Hurricane Irma made landfall in Southern Florida at Marco Island as a Category 3 storm. For the next 12 hours it spun its way North. Passing over my home in Central Florida the eye of the storm hit us as a Category 2 storm and then the other side of the eye passed as a Category 1 storm. In its path it left destruction. Everything from roofs, signs, powerlines, air conditioners, and anything else that was not tied down. Irma caused 84 deaths, and 50 Billion dollars in damage.
It took us about seven days to get power back and access to gas so we could start repairing damage. From that point until February 2018 I spent most of my time doing damage assessments for the insurance companies that were deluged with claims. My job was simple, go to a loss location and inspect the equipment as an independent third party contractor. I was not to sell or repair any equipment, my job was to identify what was damaged, what it would take to repair it, or if it needed to be replaced.
Why do the insurance companies require a third party to examine the equipment? Isn’t the word of the insured and the insureds HVAC contractor enough to say, “repair or replace?” Not in today’s environment.
Beginning the day after the storm several HVAC contractors were going door to door selling people new Air Conditioning systems because this was their chance to replace their old equipment and the insurance companies would pay for it. In one gated senior community a contractor had replacement mobile home package units on flatbed trailers that they were selling and installing on the spot. There was one problem with this, the insurance companies had not approved the replacement, the adjusters had not had a chance to visit, and the consumers got stuck with the bills. Also, most people have $3,000.00 to $5,000.00 deductibles, which means that at a minimum they had to pay $3K-$5K.
Additionally there was a lot of minor electrical damage to equipment. I saw several pieces of equipment that had been replaced (or scheduled for replacement) by a contractor that had between $25.00 to $200.00 worth of parts that needed to be replaced, but yet a contractor had convinced the insured that the whole system needed to be replaced.
Insurance companies are now always asking for a third party evaluation. The job of an insurance company is to return the insureds property to pre-loss condition. In other words, of you have a 12 year old working air conditioner in good shape the insurance company is going to return your system to a 12 year old working air conditioner. An insurance company is not going to pay for a full replacement on a 12-year-old system. The key point is that your insurance company is going to take you back to a pre-loss condition. This means that you have to prove what your pre-loss condition is, or the insurance company is going to guess.
There are a couple things that a homeowner can do prior to storm season to make sure that you have all the facts on mechanical system condition, in a way the insurance company will be able to determine what pre-loss condition was. The key is an independent inspection and documentation of your property. Why not use your current contractor? This is easy, they are not an independent third party. Your contractor, great as they may be, have an interest in selling new equipment and thus they are not independent. There are companies like ours around that specialize in providing pre-storm inspections and documentation, we do not sell new equipment, at the most we will do some repair work, but our bread and butter is accurate inspections and collection of information.What we do: 1) Full inspection of all equipment, including refrigerant (Freon) levels, temperatures, operating amperage (power use), and noise. 2) Inspection of ductwork in attic (using standard pressure testing) 3) A check of the oil in the system (yes, compressors have oil) to make sure there is no acid in it. 4) Full documentation of all equipment condition with photographs. 5) We will save all of this information on our servers, as well as mail you a DVD with the full documentation.
What this provides you is the peace of mind knowing that you can provide this documentation to your insurance company if you have damage during the 2018 storm season. This will help you expediate claims, and you may find yourself cool and comfortable before any of your neighbors.