Warranties for products are simple to understand, most people might think. You go to the store, buy a computer or a DVD player or a TV, or even a larger appliance like a refrigerator, and you get a piece of paper describing a one-year or two-year warranty, and what’s covered. Sometimes, for some extra money, you can get an extended warranty for another year or so.
But what if the item in question is not a personal appliance, but a huge building component that you’re purchasing in large numbers from a contractor? What if you’re purchasing, for your co-op or condo, a roof tank, pumps, a new roof, a new series of convectors for a central HVAC system, or mechanical parts for an elevator?
Surely, the technology in items like these is more complex than your laptop. Also, in addition to the manufacturer, there is usually now a third party—the contractor. Still, a warranty must be given. How do warranties work for such large items, and what do you, as a co-op or condo board member, committee member or manager, need to know?
A Matter of Scale
Joseph Hansen, president of Boiler Pros of Chicago, an Oak Park-based company that specializes in the installation of residential and commercial hot water and steam boiler systems throughout the region says that one difference between the warranties on small personal items like an in-unit washer/dryer versus much bigger components like a commercial grade boiler system is that a significant part of the warranty on a bigger component is based on proper installation.
“If you buy a computer or a TV, the manufacturer is going to warranty that for the year, because there’s not much chance for a user-caused problem with installation,” he says. “With something like a boiler, the manufacturer will come in and look at the installation, because the majority of problems with something like a boiler or a HVAC chiller are brought on by the crew themselves during installation.”