Are you looking to buy a home or just recently purchased one? If you purchased an older home, perhaps it had significant updates new kitchen appliances or countertops, for example - but what about the heating and air-conditioning systems? Repairing or replacing your HVAC units can be a major expense to a new homeowner, not to mention a potential hazard! Here are some important things to consider.
Age of Systems
An HVAC system generally lasts about 10-15 years. If the systems are older than that, perhaps you want to negotiate a deal with the seller for an update allowance. It is generally not a good idea to force the seller to install a new system as a condition of the sale, because the seller will be inclined to purchase the least expensive unit, which may not meet your needs.
If you're buying a new house (new construction), check that your new home warranty covers the heating and air-conditioning systems. If you're buying a pre-owned home with a recently-replaced HVAC unit, ask the seller for a copy of the warranty. If the seller had the systems under a yearly maintenance contract, find out of there are future maintenance visits due.
If you purchased a home with a gas furnace more than about 10 years old, we strongly recommend you have it checked by a certified technician prior to the heating season. This is because as we said in our last post
your furnace can kill you. Even if your furnace checks out okay, be sure you have carbon monoxide detectors installed on every level of the home, near the sleeping areas, and in the garage.
Perhaps when you attended the open house, they had some pleasant-smelling potpourri wafting through the house. Now that you've moved in, you notice it smells like dirty sox! This can be a sign of standing water in the evaporator coil pan or holes in the ductwork, either of which requires immediate attention. Don't just cover up smells, find the cause!
Does the HVAC unit make harsh sounds when cycling on or off? Is it really loud all the time while it's running? If you're looking at the house on a nice spring or fall day when the air or heat is not actively running, you may be in for a surprise later!
Signs of Damage or Problems
By physically inspecting the HVAC unit, you can often see clues that something isn't right. Is there rust anywhere on the system, ductwork, or flue? Are there any cracked, dented, broken or exposed pipes, flues, or ducts? Is there water leaking out of any part of the unit? Do you see evidence that there has been a condensation leak such as constant dampness? Is the indoor or outdoor unit covered in debris? When the heat or air kicks in, do the house lights dim? All of these conditions require attention by a qualified technician.
Is the airflow poor or weak in part of the house? Does the heat blow cold air, or does the air conditioner blow warm air? Does the thermostat work as intended? Try to test these things before purchase or have them tested as part of a home inspection or HVAC maintenance visit. Once you've closed on the house, it will be too late to request that these things be fixed by the seller, and it will be your problem.
About half your yearly energy bills go towards heating and cooling. Ask the seller to disclose their past utility bills. This will give you an idea of how efficient the HVAC unit is, as well as how well the house is insulated. If you've already moved in and find your utility bills vary drastically from what the seller had reported, this may be a sign of a problem as well.
What's Your SEER?
Visually check the unit itself for the SEER rating and Energy Star stickers. If the SEER is less than 10, a new unit might be cost-effective. The minimum SEER rating of systems now is 14 or greater.
We hope you found these tips helpful. Let us hear of any other questions/concerns you have, and subscribe to our blog so you won't miss out on useful tips that can save you money and help keep you and your family safe year-round.