DEAR BARRY: Three months after I bought my home, I got a letter from my homeowners insurance company. They threatened to cancel my policy because my furnace, according to them, was "outdated." But they never even looked at it. The new heating and air-conditioning system cost me nearly $10,000 — a huge expense — just to keep my insurance. Shouldn’t my home inspector or my Realtor have warned me about this before I purchased the property? –Tracy
DEAR TRACY: It may have been the insurance company, rather than the heating and cooling system, that needed replacement. Their demand for a new HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system), without a specific evaluation of your furnace, was unreasonable and over-reaching.
The insurance company apparently made a corporate decision to eliminate coverage on all old furnaces, regardless of specific conditions. Mandates of this kind reduce an insurance company’s exposure to claims while encumbering their customers with costs that may or may not be necessary.
Unfortunately, demands of this kind cannot be anticipated by buyers, Realtors, or home inspectors.
Some home inspectors state in their reports that an old furnace "may have limited life." And some routinely report that a furnace "appears overdue for annual servicing." But most home inspectors simply disclose actual defects that are observed. If no defects are found, then no comments about age are stated in their reports.
Most Realtors are as familiar with heating and air-conditioning equipment as they are with nuclear reactors. Unless your agent had previous experience with old furnaces or with similar insurance mandates, there would have been no reason to warn you about your insurer’s impending actions.
It is unfortunate that you gave in, without question, to the insurance company’s demand. When they notified you about the furnace, a professional review of the system was in order. The system, after all, had just been approved by your home inspector. …CONTINUED
When the insurance demand arrived, you should have called your home inspector for an opinion and for a second look at the furnace. That should have been followed by a gas company review and a full evaluation by a licensed HVAC contractor.
If no problems were found you could have applied for insurance with another company, and you probably would have gotten it.
DEAR BARRY: Can the exhaust from a gas clothes dryer be routed to the crawlspace under the house to provide extra warmth? It seems a waste to let the heat escape from the building. What do you think of this idea? –Pam
DEAR PAM: Methods for conserving dryer exhaust are occasionally devised by homeowners. One inventor channeled his dryer exhaust into the attic, hoping that the lint would increase the amount of insulation. The problems with that idea were the same as blowing the exhaust into your crawlspace. Essentially, these shortcomings are two-fold:
1) The moisture from the dryer can condense on the framing and other building materials, causing wood rot or mold.
2) The accumulation of lint can pose a fire hazard.
For these reasons, the building code requires exterior ventilation of dryer exhaust.
To write to Barry Stone, please visit him on the Web at www.housedetective.com.
What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.