WARRANTY CLAIMS & REPAIRS​

History of Fireplace Appliances and Service, Responsibilities, Costs, Maintenance and Warranty Work.

Overview

This white paper addresses the history of fireplace appliances, sets realistic expectations of the appliance maintenance and lifespan, costs and responsibilities pertaining to the appliance’s upkeep.

Fireplace Solutions (the Company) believes the following to be key points:


As with any appliance, owning a gas fireplace costs money to buy, maintain, repair and replace when it is past its lifespan of safe and functional use.

Expect to pay a service company like Fireplace Solutions for each one of these actions throughout the life of the fireplace.

Fireplaces have a lifespan just like any other appliance.

The Company cannot predict if a repair or replacement is the correct and/or most cost-effective scope of work. Know though that any prefabricated (metal) fireplace older than 10-15 years will cost substantial money to maintain and safety cannot be assured over time. Consider that replacement may often be the best alternative.

The Company performs installations, diagnosis, repairs and replaces fireplaces and parts.

There are fees for each one of these scopes of work. Responsibility is limited to this service work, not product manufacturing.

As a service company, we warranty our installation work. If it is done per manufacturer’s specification and if any issues occur after has documented proof of function at the close of work, the responsibility is on the parts or fireplace manufacture and the labor costs of the Company to perform repair and replacement work is the responsibility of the fireplace owner.

If there is a failure due to installation and the appliance has not been altered or has not been used in accordance with the manufacturer’s specification as determined by the Company, the Company is 100% responsible and there will be no charge to the owner during the time of the limited warranty time period.

Manufacturers make fireplace and parts.

They make it clear in their installation and owner’s manuals their responsibilities relating to the appliance’s functionality.

We highly recommend you obtain and read your manual, so you are aligned with the rules and responsibilities of your fireplace appliance. As an owner, you can either go directly to the manufacturer for satisfaction, or can hire the Company to perform warranty service work for a fee.

INTRODUCTION: Gas Fireplace are Appliances – Just like your refrigerator or washing machine!

For years the business of the Company was sweeping, inspecting, building, repairing and removing masonry chimney and fireplaces.

While they need annual service and they do age and need support, they are limited parts or accessories that fail. Primarily they are just brick and mortar. When you think about it, it makes sense as generally electronics and plastic fail over time when exposed to heat and corrosion.


Around the middle of the 1900’s, metal fireboxes and venting replaced bricks and flue tiles.

While they still burned solid fuel, soon real wood was replaced with fake logs, and electronics were added to make the unit operate.

The fireplace transformed into an appliance.


Early versions of these fireplaces, commonly known as decorative gas fireplace, had relatively simplistic electronics and parts which were primarily made of metal.

The companies that made these appliances remained in business for a couple of decades and repair parts were readily available.

Jump forward 40 years, these manufacturers are now closed.

Some parts are still available, but in the Company’s experience the quality of the manufacturing of these parts, if even available, has declined significantly over the decade and lead to frequent failures and return service calls.

Generally, replacement of the fireplace is indicated.

The next version of fireplace to emerge were closed system direct vent gas fireplace appliances.

These now dominate the market due to various types of appeal such as their ease of use, cleaner burning, smart accessories like remote control, and minimization of wood burning (at least in Los Angeles)


In our more than half century experience, the one value of a wood burning fireplace unit is that when soot and creosote builds up, chimney fires erupt, or smoke comes into the living area and the owner knows it is time to for a chimney swept and inspection.

It is a highly effective maintenance feedback loop.

Overall, many wood burning owners adhere diligently to the NFP211 guidelines of annual sweeps and visual inspections for overall safety.


The Company experience with both direct vent, decorative gas appliances, and decorative gas log sets is completely different.

We believe the reason starts from the very beginning of the purchase process:
NO — You don’t buy fireplace appliances at Home Depot, Best Buy or where most people purchase new appliances.
YES — Fireplaces are either purchased in a “hearth store” or more so now on-line.

While our Company cannot speak to the quality and integrity of these stores throughout the United States, at least in its experience in Southern California, we find it is rare that homeowners or end users are informed that:

  • They are buying an appliance
  • The appliance has very specific guidelines for installation, care and maintenance on very specific timelines
  • There are and routine costs to perform the maintenance and repair work

Installation & Repairs Standards

Installation and repair should be done by a qualified (NFI or similar) service technician only. The appliance should be inspected before use and ay least annually by a professional service person.

That’s right. Pick up any fireplace appliance installation and owner manual and you will read in so many words this same statement.

Sometimes certain appliance needs more frequent service to maintain its functionality and safety features especially if the fireplace resides near corrosive salt air.

Many manuals state specifically that various parts will only last 3-5 years and must be replaced.

Owners Manual WARNING 2 | WARRANTY CLAIMS & REPAIRS​

The key to this statement is its meaning once the appliance is sold:

Install and maintain the appliance according to the manufacturer’s specifications or the warranty will not be honored and any issues regarding performance or fire loss will be the direct responsibility of the owner/user of the appliance and the owner will bear all costs.

Again, it come back to the hearth store which either:

  • sells directly to a builder who never provides this information to the end user

  • or does not impress upon the purchaser the operational responsibilities of the appliance and the costs and risks of not following the manufacturer’s specification for installation and maintenance.

Facts about appliance life spans

In a recent Google search of the average lifespan of various appliance, this data was presented:

• Washing Machine – 10 years
• Clothes Dryer – 10 to 13 years
• Gas/Electric Oven – 15 years
• Microwave Oven – 7 years
• Heating and A/C – 12 to 15 years

Unlike a masonry firebox and chimney, a fireplace appliance’s average lifespan is considered between 10-20 years.
Note that this average is highly dependent on the quality of the installation, location, as well as the consistency of its annual maintenance.

In the experience of our Company:

  • Unlike their masonry counterparts, owners of gas fireplaces rarely perform maintenance according the manufacturer’s specifications.
  • They are often surprised to find the installation was not done correctly.
  • And finally, after months to years, it stops working.

This reactive event, the fireplace not working, is generally how we first meet our clients.
 
Again, the hearth store or builder never prepared the owner for this day.
So there is generally no content or context for the owner to know what to expect other than to call a hearth store to fix it.
 
This call is when they find out that most don’t provide any service.
Unless it was a unit they installed and even then, few in Southern California have a service side of their business.
 
In fact, most hearth and fireplace stores now outsource the installation so all they do is sell the appliance.
Installation and service is simply not profitable for the hearth/fireplace store.

Details about repair service and warranty responsibilities

Let’s be clear about what Fireplace Solutions The Chimney Sweeper can and cannot do for you.

Our initial work for a fireplace appliance is performance of a Gas Diagnostic Service and Consult.

It is exactly what the words say. We are encountering your appliance often for the first time.

As there are hundreds of makes and models ranging in age from months to over 50 years old, we need to identify the appliance and then determine what protocols for assessment need to be performed to diagnosis the nature of the failure.

Our base fee of this service starts at $249.00 for the first hour and then moves to time and materials to complete the repair


Important facts to consider:

  • In order to just open and close up the appliance and handle the media in order to diagnosis the issue may take an hour or more.
    These are billable hours.

  • If annual maintenance has not been performed by the owner, the result may further delay diagnostics as component cleaning may be indicated which leads to increased fees.

  • If original installation deficiencies are apparent during the diagnostic process, this may change the course of the entire encounter due to safety concerns identified.

  • While we have years of experience, no person can recall the massive repair details of a single unit let alone hundreds.
    Each unit has specific testing and repair protocols that must be followed sequentially for both functionality, compliance to manufacturer’ specification and safety.

  • As a Company technician progresses through each stage of the protocol, when a failed part is found, it is identified for removal and replacement at another visit.

    When this failed part is installed at the next service, THE APPLIANCE MAY STILL NOT WORK.

    This is because fireplace appliances work in sequence and a new failed part may be found only after the technician has installed the new part. Thus, the work can begin all again in the pursuit of making the appliance work again.

Let’s talk about what repair fees an owner can expect in the context of a 10-year-old fireplace appliance:

  • If a fireplace had annual maintenance, the fees would average $300 per year or $3000 to $5000 over 10 years and 10 visits.
  • Repairs costs to the appliance after 10 years of no prior annual service can range from $249 to $5000, and potentially 1 to 5 visits.

So over 10 years, costs and visits tend to average out.
We recommend having these financial and time expectations relating to repairs so if never or rarely perform annual or more often maintenance these costs are in alignment.

Responsibilities for service and parts (The Warranty Story)

Fireplace Solutions’ general scope of work is service. We diagnose problems and attempt to fix them.

If that scope of work involves the replacement of parts or an entire fireplace, please note the following responsibilities relating to warranties and future repairs or replacement when a part fails:

  • Fireplace Solutions is responsible to install parts and fireplaces in accordance with the manufacture’s installation specifications.
    We are not responsible for any aspect of the manufacturing of a part or fireplace. So, the Company’s fees for its scope of work are not connected to the part or fireplace. If the Company fails in the performance of repair or installation, we are responsible and will do what it takes to fix the issues at no charge.

  • The manufacturer of any part or fireplace is responsible for that part or fireplace to operate.
    The manufacturer made it and is 100% responsible for its function. If a part fails, Fireplace Solutions will charge for the work of the initial diagnosis, the removal of the failed part, the warranty return office work, and the reinstallation.

    This work will either be billed as a fix fees or time and material. It may take one or many visits for resolution in which each call is billable. If the owner wishes to do any of the warranty work the Company will work in coordination to facilitate the warranty exchange.

In summary, Fireplace Solutions does not manufacture fireplaces or parts.

We are a service company that sells fireplace and parts to its clients upon a repair appointment with a defined scope of work.

The Company is 100% responsible that the fireplace and part is installed per the manufacturer’s installation specifications.

Our responsibility and liabilities end there.

 


If the fireplace or parts built by a manufacturer has a warranty and repair agreement, it is between the owner and the manufacturer.

Fireplace Solutions only facilitates the installation and if needed the removal and replace of failed fireplace or parts.

The Company take no financial responsibility for that which is the manufacturer’s failure to provide a working fireplace or part.

We charge for each and every time we are asked to make a fireplace function.

Summary

As stated at the beginning, this paper addresses the history of fireplace appliances, looks to set realistic expectations of fireplace appliance maintenance and lifespan and addressed costs and responsibilities of the Company, appliance manufacturers and owners.

Key points include:

  • Owning a fireplace costs money to buy, maintain, fix and replace when it is past its lifespan of safe and functional use. Expect to pay for each repair visit throughout the life of the fireplace.

  • Service companies’ diagnosis, repair and replace fireplaces and parts. There are fees for each one of these actions.

  • Responsibility is limited to this service work, not manufacturing.

  • Manufacturers make fireplace and parts. They make it clear in their installation and owner’s manuals their responsibilities.

  • We highly recommend you obtain and read your manual, so you are aligned with the costs, rules and responsibilities of your fireplace appliance.

The Fine Print: Gas Diagnostic Appointments Explained

Our gas diagnostic work is an assessment of the fireplace(s) in question.


There are hundreds of different brands and models of gas burning fireplace appliances. As such the technician’s work will first involve identification of the appliance, then the determination of steps needed to perform the diagnosis, and finally a diagnosis of the reason(s) for the appliance’s lack of proper function.

This diagnostic work may result in the appliance returning to normal operations at the time of the visit or may lead to a need for further work on the part of the technician (either on-site or at the office) and/or the need for new parts.

Technician fees for time beyond the first hour once on-site are $195/hr. The next visit fee starts at $245/hr., $195/hr. past one hour and the cost of any indicated parts. The technician shall inform you of this information prior to incurring any charges beyond the initial diagnostic fees.

Warranties only pertain to those of the appliance or part’s manufacturer. Fireplace Solutions and the technician’s work is not warrantied for any subsequent improper function of a part or all of the appliance and similar diagnostic fees shall be assessed for subsequent appointments.

NOTE: All gas services performed by the Company DO NOT entail any inspection work (L1, L2 or L3) of the appliance or confirm functionality, code compliance, or adherence to manufacturer listings or installation / operational specifications unless it is specifically documented in the service record for that visit.

NOTE: GAS MUST BE AVAILABLE TO THE FIREPLACE AT THE TIME OF SERVICE TO PERFORM OUR WORK.
Lack of gas will result in the need for a second visit and a second professional fee.


Important information about direct vent gas fireplaces:


Direct vent gas fireplaces involve parts that manage both gas and electricity.
Many factors impact their functionality including but not limited to:

  • The quality of the initial installation

  • Consistency of utility service

  • Compliance with the manufacturer’s specifications for the appliance’s maintenance – at least annually

  • Environmental factors such as installations near the coast, windy areas, etc.

  • Interior home factors such as humidity, dust, spiders, fibers, and others

  • Attempted interventions from uncertified or unqualified repair-persons

  • The function or lack of function of other components in the appliance and their interaction in the operation of the appliance

Quoted repairs for gas fireplace appliances are based on diagnostics performed by our technicians which follow a step-by-step process per the fireplace manufacturer’s installation and troubleshooting manuals.

If a technician found that one part malfunctioned, this DOES NOT mean that the technician is able to identify if other parts are also malfunctioning until the first new part is replaced the unit is re-tested.

The addition of a new part(s) may or may not resolve the fireplace appliances operational issues and thus may lead to multiple changes of work orders and follow-up service visits to address the appliance’s functionality with additional professional fees.


IMPACT FOR YOU


An owner is responsible for the payment of the Company’s professional fee of each encounter even if the fireplace appliance, once the new part is installed, DOES NOT FUNCTION.

A change in work order or quote will be presented to the Owner upon determination of non functionality and will address the fees of time and materials to perform the next attempt to make the appliance functional according to manufacturer’s specifications.

Fees will include both office and on-site time as well as additional parts indicated.

COMPANY and MANUFACTURE WARRANTY INFORMATION

California law states that the licensed contractor must provide a warranty guaranteeing that items installed under the contractor’s license are free from defective installation.


The installation must comply with both local building codes and manufacturer installation requirements. If a product is damaged due to defective installation, the contractor may be held liable for the cost of repairs and damages.

This warranty extends for four years after the completion of a job. When the service work performed and/or installation completed according to manufacturer’s installation specifications, the manufacturer, not the licensed contractor, is responsible for any warranty repairs.

Any warranty work performed by the Company is at its usual and customary fees. The Company provides a limited warranty on all service and installation work from the date the service was performed.

If any aspect of the repair or installation work was altered from the date of the service or misused, upon examination by the Company in in its sole assessment, will void any warranty, and the owner will be completely responsible for the Company’s fees to repair or re-install the parts and/or fireplaces.

If a part that the Company installed fails and the Company performed its work according to manufacturer’s installation specifications by demonstration that the appliance/gas set functioned at the time of the end of the service, the Company can support a client warranty support services as follows:

1) The Company will process the warranty claim.

The professional fee for this service is $295 for the first hour and then billed as time and materials such as packaging and mailing costs.

This work includes first finding out if a warranty will be honored by the manufacturer. If not, the  Company will inform the owner and determine if a quote to fix the appliance out of warranty is of interest. If the warranty can be processed, the Company will send a technician to the location, remove the part and bring it back to the office so it can be mailed to the manufacturer/wholesaler for credit.

On that visit the technician will go to the location of the fireplace appliance, determine if the appliance has not been altered, remove the part and bring it to the Company for processing. If the appliance has been altered, the Company will inform the owner and state what potential next steps are available if any.

2) When the new part arrives from the manufacturer, the Company will set an appointment for installation.

The professional fee for this service for reinstallation is $249 and then time and materials.


Important General Information About Fireplace Appliance Manufacturer’s Warranties:


 

  • All warranties are different and each manufacturer’s limited warranties can be highly restrictive and slow to provide replacement parts.

  • WARRANTIES CANNOT BE PROCESSED WITHOUT THE MODEL AND SERIAL NUMBER FROM YOUR UNIT THAT THE PART IS BEING INSTALLED ON. PART MUST BE AN OEM REPLACEMENT FOR THAT UNIT.

  • Warranties are only extended to the first end-user of the product and are non-transferable.

  • Parts must be the manufacturer recommended replacement for the unit and must be used for its intended application to be eligible for warranty. Parts used in the incorrect unit, abused, or used outside its intended application will not be eligible for warranty. Parts have different time-specific warranties. Refer to your owner’s manual. Maintenance items (e.g., filters, fuses, lamps,etc.) are never eligible for warranty.
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