Homeowners insurance only covers damage done to an AC unit as a result of a 'covered peril' listed in your homeowners policy. Depending on the type, an AC is part of the structure of your home or personal property, so you will be able to file a claim for damage from specific causes per your policy.
When Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Air Conditioner Units?
Home insurance covers AC units to the same extent your home is covered. Damage caused by fires, falling trees, vandalism, lightning strikes, and sometimes flooding are all listed as 'covered perils' in your policy. Normal wear-and-tear or accidental damage however is not. So if your unit fails after ten years of use, the repairs or replacement won't be reimbursed. If it is damaged in a fire however, then it would be covered under your home insurance policy. The following list multiple scenarios where your AC unit would be covered by your insurance.
Fire and Lightning Damage
In the event fire destroys your air conditioner, your homeowners insurance policy will cover the repairs or replacement. If a spark causes your home to be engulfed in flames destroying your AC, you would be protected as well. Typically if lightning strikes your unit--damaging its electrical components--you will be able to use insurance to replace the unit.
Falling Trees and Vandalism
Should your air conditioning unit be shattered by a falling tree or branch, you are protected since your policy covers home damages caused by trees. If your AC unit is vandalized, you are also protected since your policy pays for any destruction from vandalism. If it is vandalism, you should also file a police report to document the crime and harm done.
Freezing Weather, Burst Pipes, and Faulty Parts
If your built-in air conditioner sustains burst pipes during cold temperatures, it will be covered because your homeowners insurance policy protects you from frozen and burst pipes. One relevant case we came across recently involved a Brooklyn home where the home's central AC/heating unit had a faulty valve. The unit leaked into the apartment and caused floor damage (warping and mold). The faulty valve was not considered poor maintenance, so their homeowners insurance covered them in this case. As for the floors, they too were reimbursable since your homeowners policy protects you against damage caused by non-weather related flooding. All in all, the case saw a pay out of around $13,000 to fix both the air conditioner unit as well as the floors.
If you are ever in doubt about the specific events in which you are covered, give your agent or insurance company a call for details as each policy may differ.
When Isn’t Your AC Unit Covered By Your Homeowners Insurance?
Homeowners insurance policies don’t cover situations caused by lack of maintenance, general wear-and-tear, or accidents. An air conditioner failing after ten years of use or dented by an errant baseball during a backyard game of catch won’t be covered by your home insurance and you’ll be solely responsible for repairing or replacing the unit.
Depending on your insurance company, they may consider central AC and window AC units differently. Generally, a central AC unit will be considered part of your home's structure and thus covered as we discuss above. Certain companies however may consider a window unit as "personal property" rather than belonging to the structure of the home. While personal property will still be protected under your homeowners policy, you should call up your insurance company to clear up any possible confusion.
How Do You File a Homeowners Insurance Claim to Fix Your Air Conditioner?
If your AC unit sustains harm from a covered event, you should first consider the deductible on your policy. If the cost to repair or replace your AC unit is less than or only slightly higher than your policy’s deductible, you’re better off paying out-of-pocket. Filing a claim could raise the premiums you pay for homeowners insurance.
If you do decide to proceed with filing a homeowners claim, you should take pictures of any visible harm done to your AC unit and write down its model and serial number. If vandalism was the cause of the damage, be sure to file and request a copy of the police report. The next step is to give your agent or insurer a call to begin the claims process. After asking how your AC unit was damaged, they will check to make sure the damage is covered by your specific policy. An adjuster will then be sent to your home to survey the AC unit and estimate how much money your insurer will provide to replace or repair the unit. You should meet with the adjuster when they arrive to be sure nothing is overlooked or missed during the evaluation.
The adjuster will then quote the cost of repairs or replacement. Bear in mind that your insurer is not going to pay for a better system than the one you already had. If your policy covers the replacement cost value, then you'll receive an amount equal to the value of the unit when it was first purchased--including inflation. If your policy covers the actual cash value, then you will receive an amount equal to the cost of the AC at the time of damage. That means if the value of the unit has depreciated, you would receive the depreciated amount. Once the claim is approved, the insurer will provide you with a portion--usually half--of the repair or replacement cost, paying out the remainder once the work has been finished.