If you are looking to buy a previously owned home, you will likely go through many inspections before your move in date. While this is an exciting time, you want to be sure that you pay special attention to elements of the home that could cost you dearly later if they fail. One such component is your HVAC system.
Many times, the HVAC system receives very little attention during the selling process. In order to avoid future issues, it is crucial that you check the heating and air conditioning units to ensure that they are up-to-date and ready to perform optimally for your household. Are there any underlying problems? Do the utilities seem like they’re in good shape? A common thing for first time home buyers to take a look at is the condition of the house’s HVAC equipment. A furnace that is in particularly rough shape could be the difference between making an offer on a house and looking elsewhere.
Here is a quick checklist that will assist you in determining the health of a potential home’s HVAC system.
What Should Be on Your HVAC Checklist?
Unless you are already familiar with HVAC products, you might not know what to look for. Luckily, there are a few pieces of information that can provide insight into the overall condition the HVAC equipment is in.
Determine the Age of the Unit
This is a pretty easy one as the serial number along with the install date will give you an exact number of its age. Most homes come with a furnace and an air conditioning unit. You can typically tell how old these systems are by simply looking at their label.
Older models can be less energy efficient and can lack convenient features used in new equipment. Even if an HVAC system was manufactured several years ago, the installation itself could have been more recent. Recent installations are more likely to be in great shape, particularly if routine maintenance has been provided.
Find Out Who Installed the System
This is not always easy to find out, but you should ask the seller which HVAC professional installed the system and who regularly services it. Many items come with a warranty, so you will need to know who you should be calling if you end up having problems with your systems. Keep in mind some manufacturer parts warranties may or may not be transferable
A quality installation will definitely allow for longer system life so it is important to know if the job was done by a professional, a contractor who is no longer in business or maybe even a previous homeowner. The installation should be thought of like the foundation of a home; this is the starting point and it sets the tone for the rest of the system.
A quality install will get you the most out of your investment. A lower quality install will increase the likelihood of premature failure. The second part to knowing who did the work is that you will have access to past records and the system may be covered by a transferable labor warranty. Labor can be a huge cost so if make sure to check into this and potentially save yourself some money.
Has It Received Any Routine Maintenance?
Professional preventative maintenance is one of the best things you can provide HVAC equipment. Previous homeowners do not always keep up with the recommended maintenance schedule, which could leave the HVAC system at a higher risk of problems. Routine maintenance can include everything from replacing the air filter to keeping important components clean and well-lubricated.
If the previous owner was enrolled in a maintenance agreement plan then refer back to who has done the work or find out if they used a different HVAC company for the maintenance then they did for the install. The records will not only help you stay within warranty but give you more transparency on the life of the HVAC system.
Understand Your System Ratings
There are energy efficiency ratings on most newer systems that can give you an idea of how much the system will save you in running costs each year. When you assess your air conditioning unit, it’s called the SEER rating. SEER, or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating, should be labelled somewhere on the AC and an AFUE, Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, percentage somewhere on the furnace.
You may have an HSPF or COP rating on your furnace instead of an AFUE. The higher the number, the more efficient the system “should” operate, although actual performance is highly dependent on factors outside of the system such as duct work sizing, duct leakage, quality of installation, system balance, etc. Just like the age of the system should not be a sole decision maker in the status of a systems life, the ratings on a unit should not be an auto assumption that the higher rating guarantees higher results.
It is important to understand the numbers and compare them to against utility bills to get an understanding of how the system is actually performing. High efficiency should come with lower bills but if you find that the bills are high with high efficiency then there is a problem.
Get Copies of Utility Bills or an Average Utility Cost
When you are considering at a potential new home, it is always a good idea to ask what the cost might be for your annual energy bill. The previous homeowner should be able to provide you with a ballpark figure so you can ensure that the energy bill will fit within your monthly budget. Also, if the house has a programmable thermostat, new windows, good insulation or ceiling fans this can also help keep operating cost down.
Is the System Still Under Warranty?
If your maintenance records check out, you may still fall under the manufacturer warranty which will save you big on any replacement parts. The second warranty to look into that is often times overlooked is the labor warranty. Many contractors offer transferrable warranties and labor is not cheap. This is just another thing that could be free to you and save you big for years to come but if you do not ask, you may never know.
Choose a Trusted Service Company for an Inspection and Tune-Up
If you have discovered a problem with the home’s HVAC system, think about calling a trusted local service company before you decide against buying. They can complete a thorough inspection, determining the extent of existing issues and looking for any others. If the problem can be fixed with a simple tune-up, buying the house may still be worth it.
And there is always a chance the previous owner simply wasn’t aware of the problem. If there is something wrong with the HVAC system, it never hurts to ask if potential replacement costs will be factored into the cost of the home itself. In any case, the more info you have, the better decisions you can make.
You can always count on the Aire-Tech to keep your home cool. Perhaps you need repairs, new thermostat installation, or preventative maintenance—whatever the HVAC issue is, Aire-Tech is ready to help. If your system needs repair or inspection before summer, call us on 951-926-1002. You can also visit our Contact page and complete the contact form.