After all, aside from the roof, your HVAC system is the most expensive to replace. And, if it’s in good condition and working efficiently, it will give you peace of mind (not to mention home comfort) for years to come. So whether you’re an old hand at home buying or a first-timer, here’s what to look for when evaluating a home’s HVAC system.
How Old is the System?
These days, 18 – 22 years is the typical life of most HVAC systems. Some will last longer. However, at around 20 years is when most systems start to show their age and may need repairs. Those repairs can start to add up and some of them can be so expensive that it’s better to replace the whole system. Also, as equipment ages, replacement parts may be hard to come by – or not available at all. So even if you’re looking at an older system that’s been well cared for and “looks” to be in great condition, it’s wise to dig a little deeper.
If You’re a DIYer, Take a Look Under the Hood
If you’re comfortable doing so, you can do a cursory inspection yourself. Remove the panels and look for signs that it’s been well maintained. Is the entire area dust-free? Are the burner and blower areas clean and free of rust and corrosion? Are there signs of water? That includes “water tracks” – residue left behind after water has dried up – that could indicate a past water leak. Has that leak been fixed? Be sure to take a good look at the pilot flame for older units. It should be a crisp, blue color and not too high or too low.
Ask for Maintenance and Repair Records
Just like a car, the seller may have records of past work performed on the system. If so, be sure to review them to see what may have gone wrong in the past, how serious a problem it was, and how quickly it was repaired. Records of regular inspections and maintenance will indicate the system has been well cared for over its lifetime. Pay special attention if the AC unit was ever recharged. If so, that means there was a leak at some point. Was it repaired and has the repair held? If not, this is something you may have to deal with down the road.
Have an HVAC Pro Inspect the System
You’ll probably have a home inspector look over the entire house, but keep in mind what that covers – overall construction, foundation, roof, plumbing, and electrical system – in just a couple of hours. So the time spent looking over the HVAC system will be beneficial, but probably not extensive. An inspector would likely catch any major issues, but they just don’t have the time – or specialized training – to be as thorough as an HVAC pro would be.
It’s well worth the investment to have a reliable HVAC pro do a complete inspection of the system. They can inspect all of the moving parts, verify that the installation is correct and up to code, test for leaks, verify that all systems are operating correctly (testing the AC in winter or the furnace in summer), and so on. They can advise you on anything that might need immediate attention or that looks like it could be an issue down the line. Be sure to have them take a look at the ductwork and venting system – these are two other areas that you’ll want in tip-top shape before making your final decision.
Another advantage of having a pro do your inspection is that it will be an opportunity to establish a relationship with them for any future maintenance or work you may need done. Whether you’re a new or experienced homeowner, knowing a trusted HVAC pro is a valuable resource – especially if you ever run into an emergency situation.
Good luck home hunting and if you need to contact a reliable HVAC pro in your area, just use our convenient dealer locator.