Whether you’re seeking to purchase a newly constructed home, or buying a vintage 120 year old house, it pays to be educated about the HVAC system. Of course today we rely heavily on the house inspector to reveal any required repairs or replacements. But, there is nothing like a trained HVAC specialist to spy out more than what meets the eye. Things can be overlooked, or not even on the inspector’s check-list at all.
“Buyer Beware” is a slogan to go by when investing in one of the highest priced purchases you can make for your family.
How old is the Present HVAC System?
Today, the suggested replacement age of a HVAC system is eighteen years. If the home you’re considering has a system getting close to this time limit, you will want to factor this into your purchase price or imminent future expenses.
If the existing furnace is old, but does pass inspection, have it rechecked annually, and keep your family safe by installing carbon monoxide detectors in your home.
Keep in mind you may want to replace it sooner rather than later. Your HVAC system could be responsible for almost 50% of your utility bill. Investing in a newer, more efficient unit, will lower your utility bills and save money over the long run.
If your technician recommends getting a new system, you may even be able to subtract all or part of the cost of the furnace from the seller’s asking price.
Otherwise, you may want to decline the purchase of a home with an obsolete system.
What to Look For
To start with, if the asking price of the house is low, it might be worthwhile to consider replacing the HVAC. Again, the savings in new, Energy Star compliant equipment, will also make it worth it.
Go one step beyond what the housing inspector has to say. You can look for rust and water stains, cracks, splits or dents. And listen to the motor. Does it make rattling or other strange noises that might indicate an internal sign of stress.
Ask for a copy of maintenance records from the owners.
If there are doubts and you feel that the HVAC system could require near-future expenses, again, this may be a negotiation tool for the selling price of the home.
Another thing to take a look at is the forced-air duct work. You rely on this to carry the heat and cool air throughout the house, so it needs to be free of leaks. Watch for condensation, gaps and loose connections. Also be sure they are clean, and not filled with years of dust and particles which can contaminate the air-quality of the home.
Find out what type of insulation the home has. Especially is this important for older homes. Your inspector should be the first to discover vermiculite insulation (found in asbestos) and it’s his obligation to let buyers and sellers know of the potential dangers as well as the adverse economic effect of vermiculite. In fact, this trending issue has led to the Zonolite Attic Insulation Trust (ZAI) set up and established by W. R. Grace on February 3, 2014. This Trust is responsible for evaluating claims and distributing reimbursements to affected homeowners. Eligible claimants may be reimbursed up to $4,125 for a legitimate ZAI Property Damage Claim. (ZAI PD).
Notice any drafts. Air leaks are also costly. Inspect the seals around doors and windows to be sure that they are snug. You can do your own leak test by lighting a stick of incense or some other smoke emitting item.
How’s the Air-Conditioning?
What if you’re looking at an older home that has no Air-Conditioning? Of course if this is something you want to install, keep in mind that the cost goes far beyond the central unit itself. If the heating system has no ducting, then design and duct work, labor and installation all must be considered. Or you might choose a ductless cooling system.
Other Things to Consider
Your new home checklist will no doubt include location, government, schools and other services. But sometimes overlooked is the quality of water in the community. Would you want to install a water purifier? A water softener?
Is it in an area that suffers high humidity in the summer? Then a whole-house humidifier would be good to have. Does the house you’re considering purchasing have these? How much will it cost you if it doesn’t?
If you do Plan to Replace Equipment
Many older homes do not have the correct size HVAC system. Sometimes furnaces have even been found to be twice as large as what the home needs. This causes too frequent cycling, shortening the life of the system, and what’s worse, it does not provide a good level of comfort.
We at ABEL will make an evaluation of the size of your home and do the calculations to determine the correct size HVAC system needed.
We recommend that you get the best efficiency equipment you can afford. The higher the efficiency rating, the longer it will last and the lower your energy bills will be.
Speak with your technician about indoor Air-Quality, humidifiers and high-efficiency air filtration systems before you buy.
Don’t Leave Anything to Chance
Once the home you are considering to purchase has ‘passed’ inspection, you may want to request an additional check-up by Abel Heating and Cooling, to be sure nothing has gone unnoticed. Then you’ll move into your new home knowing what to expect…happiness, safety and comfort!
Need a check-up of your present system? Give us a call at 952-472-2665 or Contact Us.