Buying a Home: How to Examine the HVAC System

Sep 01, 2021

One of the most essential parts of buying a new home is ensuring you will not need unexpected, costly repairs. The biggest culprit for homebuyers is the HVAC system. Finding a home with a high-quality HVAC system can save you money with energy efficiency and lower the chances you’ll need to pay for costly repairs. Conversely, a failing HVAC system will cost you more long-term. The experts at Newcomb and Company are here with a look at how to examine an HVAC system before you buy a home.

Homebuyer HVAC Check 1. Conduct a Visual Inspection

One of the most essential parts of an HVAC system examination is a visual inspection. Visual inspections often include checking the exterior unit’s cleanliness, condensing coils, and the home’s vents. Here is a 7-step visual inspection for potential homebuyers to complete at every house they tour:

Step 1: View the exterior unit cleanliness

A dirty exterior unit with foliage growing close is a sign that the HVAC system hasn’t been well cared for. For an HVAC system to work properly, the exterior unit must use the outside air. Blocked units endure unnecessary stress and often run inefficiently. You may have to take extra time to clear the obstructions and ensure the unit is not damaged.

Step 2: Review condensing coils

An HVAC system’s condenser coils should be clean and free of damage. These coils are located by the exterior unit, and you’ll want to check them for damage and cleanliness. If you notice cracks or lots of dirt, you will likely have to pay for repairs or hire someone to thoroughly clean them.

Step 3: Inspect the exterior HVAC unit’s position

When an exterior unit sits directly on the ground rather than on a concrete floor or another sturdy base, it’s likely to shift out of position. This shifting can put more stress on the HVAC lines, resulting in the unit working harder and needing more frequent repairs. When an HVAC unit is resting on the ground, keep in mind that you may need to hire an HVAC technician to find a way to ensure it stays in position.

Step 4: Check ducts and insulation

Does the home you’re looking at have an HVAC system that relies on ducts? Check to see if these ducts have any leaks. Gaps in the ductwork, loose connections, and condensation can all indicate or create HVAC issues. You can also ask the current homeowner about their insulation. A poorly insulated home will let your comfortable air out and lead to high energy bills.

Step 5: See if vents produce comfortable air

Does your home feel comfortable? If not, this indicates a problem. A quick way to see if an HVAC system is working is to put your hand up to the indoor vents. When the AC unit is working, cool air should be coming through the vents when it’s turned on. During colder months, you should feel warm air from the home’s heater. If the vents don’t produce comfortable air, your new home will need an HVAC repair or a new system. This issue could help you negotiate for a lower price.

Step 6: Look for signs of damage

As you complete your visual inspection, look for signs of damage throughout the entire HVAC system. If equipment has water stains, cracks, rust, or dents, the AC unit may struggle to perform optimally and need repairs soon. Strange noises coming from the equipment can also signal AC unit issues.

Step 7: Additional Considerations

There are a few additional points to consider when inspecting your new home’s HVAC system:

  • Furnace vs. heat pump: This is a common concern for homebuyers moving down south from the north. In colder climates, furnaces are the only way to achieve comfortable winter temperatures. However, in the south, it is standard to have a heat pump.
  • Unit brand: You get what you pay for when it comes to HVAC systems. If you find that your home has a newer unit from a low-quality brand, it might not last as long as you expect. You can also check the life expectancy and reviews of the system in your new home.
  • Air filters: Dirty air filters can strain your unit and indicate poor maintenance. Overly thick air filters can provide similar strain to the system. Feel free to pop open a vent when touring a home to check the air filter status. You can read more about how frequently they should be changing the air filters here.
  • Air purifier: It is common now for homeowners to install high-quality air purifiers into their units. You might check to see if this is a feature available in your potential home and ask if the homeowner plans to leave the air purification system behind when they move.
  • Thermostat: The thermostat is like the brain of the HVAC system. Check to see if they have a new programmable thermostat with upgraded features. These features can help you save energy and money by reducing the temperature when nobody is home. Older thermostats are more likely to need service, calibration, and eventual replacement.
  • Warranty: Is your new HVAC system covered under warranty? When does the protection expire? How can you ensure it is still intact? Keep in mind that poor HVAC system care and other contact factors can void a warranty.

Homebuyer HVAC Check 2. View the Energy Label

All HVAC systems have a yellow energy label with the system’s operating costs and the unit’s energy efficiency. Viewing this label lets you see how the system’s energy efficiency compares to other units on the market using the SEER rating. If the unit has poor energy efficiency, it can result in higher energy bills. This point could be used for negotiation in your offer, as you may need to replace the system after you purchase the house.

Homebuyer HVAC Check 3. Ask About Prior Repairs and Maintenance History

When an HVAC system has a long history of needing repairs, it will likely need more care in the future. Frequent repairs show that the system received poor maintenance—or that the homeowner opted to repair a failing system instead of replacing it. You might even be able to find job tickets on key components of the system left by HVAC technicians, helping you see what repairs have been performed. You can always ask a homeowner about their system’s maintenance history. Preventative maintenance is recommended by manufacturers to keep your system protected and efficient.

Homebuyer HVAC Check 4. Find Out How Old the System Is

The older a system is, the more likely it needs to be repaired or replaced. HVAC systems tend to last around 15 years before they require replacement. This lifespan is even shorter in systems that received poor maintenance. If you are buying a home with an older HVAC system, it will be more likely to break down and need major repairs. Older systems also will not deliver the energy efficiency of newer models, resulting in higher energy bills. If your potential home has an older HVAC system, you can use this to your advantage in negotiating a lower price. You can use these cost savings to replace your unit when the time comes.

Choose Newcomb and Company for HVAC Services in Raleigh

When you need professional advice about a home you’re thinking of buying’s HVAC system, turn to Newcomb and Company. If you decide to buy a home with HVAC issues, you may also want to hire us for new home HVAC repair services in Raleigh, Wilmington, and the surrounding areas. We regularly deliver HVAC insights to new homeowners to help them get the most out of their system, both financially and in terms of performance.

You can review our HVAC services today. If you have any questions or want to schedule your service, please feel free to contact us.

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