Shopping for a new home is exciting but can also be overwhelming. While looking at paint colors and open floor plans are important the big things you want to watch for are expensive fixes, like plumbing, roofing, electrical and HVAC problems. HVAC is always one of the most missed problems when it comes to home inspections. Home inspectors do not have the tools or knowledge to conduct a thorough HVAC inspection. If you find potential problems, you can use that information to have the seller correct the issues before hand or negotiate the purchase price. The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), along with utility bills, maintenance and repair costs, are a huge part of the home buying equation.
You will impress your home inspector and save time and money by asking for specific information on duct design, insulation, sizing, and leaks. Circular ducts tend to be quieter and more efficient than rectangular ones. While HVAC and duct design probably aren’t the first things you look at when shopping for a new home, the savvy home buyer will take them into deep consideration. Ask the home inspector for specifics on the HVAC system and duct design. Ask about duct leaks and if the ducts are sized and designed correctly.
By 2020, R-22 refrigerant will no longer be legal to produce. So you need to ask if the HVAC system in the home uses R-22. R-22 has been banned by the EPA. Replacing the R-22 will be very expensive. And eventually you will have to replace the system.
Age & Maintenance History
If you are selling your home and your HVAC system is more than 10 years old, consider replacing the outdated system. Buyers want high energy efficiency, low maintenance, and high reliability. If you are the home buyer it is important to know the age and maintenance history of the HVAC system of your new home. Regular maintenance (bi-annual) plays a major role in the life expectancy of your HVAC system. Ask the seller for any information they have on maintenance and repairs performed. Annual preventative maintenance is essential for maintaining any manufacturer’s warranties the system may have, in addition to extending its lifespan, improving energy efficiency, and reducing the need for repairs. Ask to see them. You also want to be sure to schedule a professional HVAC inspection to get the full story.
As much as half of the energy used in your home goes to heating and cooling. So making smart decisions about your home’s heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) system can have a big effect on your utility bills — and your comfort. HVAC energy effieciency combined with insulation levels is very important to discuss. Air conditioner energy efficiency is measured by its SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating. The higher the SEER number, the more energy-efficient it is. Furnace energy efficiency is measured by its AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating. The higher the AFUE rating, the more efficient it is. For example, 90% AFUE means that 90% of the fuel consumed is used for heating (the rest is lost to combustion). Heat pump energy efficiency is measured by its HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) rating. Again, the higher the number, the more efficient the system. As the HVAC system ages, its energy efficiency decreases. By scheduling a professional HVAC inspection, you will get a much better understanding of the system’s current energy efficiency.
Ask the seller for copies of their recent utility bills for the real numbers. Avoid utility bill shock (average monthly utility bills are around $240/month) by finding out the home’s total energy costs, including electrical, HVAC, and water or sewer bills.
Location of Indoor Unit
Heating systems work best with the grilles in the floor since the warm air is delivered low and rises by convection. Air delivered at the ceiling from an attic system has a greater tendency to stratify especially in high ceiling situations. The heating system is just like a human, it works best in a comfortable environment. If your indoor air handling unit is in the attic, you run the risk of water leaking and causing expensive ceiling damage. HVAC units that are in the basement are much less likely to cause damage to the home.
Location of Outdoor Unit
It’s hard to find a home these days that does not have central air conditioning and it’s no wonder with the increasing summertime heat and rising temperatures. Outdoor condenser unit location matters. If the unit is too close to bedrooms windows, the noise can be bothersome. Also, if the home is in a flood-prone area, make sure the unit is elevated or located on higher ground. One last thing to check is the gutters above the unit. If there are no gutters or if they are damaged, water runoff can cause damage to the unit.
Check if your HVAC system requires cleaning or replacing the air filter and if it is easy to access. Since air filters should be changed every 30-90 days, it should be easy to do so.
HVAC Maintenance Plan
Check the sellers maintenace plan and remember as a new homeowner (and HVAC owner), you are now responsible for routine heating and cooling maintenance. Sign up for a home maintenance plan early to keep your warranties intact and your energy bills and repair and replacement costs down.
Check the Thermostat
A programmable thermostat allows you to schedule automatic increases and decreases in your home’s temperature, saving money on cooling in the summer and heating in the winter. If the new home does not have a programmable thermostat they are easy to install and easy to use. You will see a lower utility bill by doing so.
Hire a Separate, Licensed HVAC Inspector
Before hiring an HVAC service provider, ask about licensing, liability insurance and bonding. Make sure you have a Master HVAC contractor licenced in your State. The heating and cooling system is one of the most complex systems that can be found in a home. It’s essential that the HVAC service privider you hire is well-trained to deal with the inherent safety issues in heating systems — electricity, natural gas, oil — or cooling units that use toxic refrigerants such as Freon. An HVAC contractor will play a crucial role in your home’s comfort, air quality and safety.
Teegarden HVAC can conduct a comprehensive examination of the entire HVAC system, including correct sizing, design, ventilation, cleanliness, indoor air quality concerns, structural integrity, moisture concerns, and much more.
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