Heating and Cooling Solutions

Home Sales Inspection

Dear Comfort Advisor,

I recently bought my first home and was told the furnace needed to be replaced soon after I moved in. I had a home inspection and thought I was covered. Shouldn’t this have been caught earlier?

Dear Disappointed Dude,

This situation is more common than you know and is always a shock. It is less of a problem now with a much lower level of home sales but still occurs regularly. The problem stems from a lack of knowledge of heating, cooling and ventilation products and their application. From my experience, the training that most home inspectors have is more general in nature rather than the very specific nature of HVAC. Home inspection is also very competitive and most folks don’t know the difference between a good report and a fair report. If you knew what you were looking for you wouldn’t need a home inspector. We have worked with a number of home inspectors in the past but this added cost puts their price above others in the business and makes them less competitive.

I most certainly want to endorse the use of home inspectors but if you really want to know what’s going on with the heating, cooling, and ventilation in the home, you need to contact a HVAC professional. It takes many years of experience and certainly training to properly diagnosis and assess a system. Many times the equipment is in good shape but the design and distribution is poor and often times dangerous. Most of the populous is under the assumption that all heating and cooling technicians have been to years of school and have been tested to be competent in their field. This is far from the truth. In fact there is no licensing requirement for the HVAC trade in Montana which is why I require NATE certification for my techs. NATE is the leading non-profit certification program for technicians in the HVAC/R industry and the only test supported by the entire industry. The total lack of county inspections is another short coming that means “buyer beware”. My point being; don’t assume the equipment is sized properly, installed properly, or was ever maintained like the manufacturer requires.

One helpful thing for you to do is gain access to utility records to assess the efficiency of both the home and HVAC equipment. This is a cost you will be carrying as the new home owner. Sometimes these numbers can be really scary as the winter heating cost multiply. Trying to figure a utility “base load” should be considered. This provides a snapshot of the steady costs of domestic water heating and normal electrical charges for lights, refrigeration, and cooking.

Usually in our climate cooling costs are fairly minimal, but the swings in heating cost should be analyzed. Budget billing is a red flag that heating costs are very high. Another helpful piece of information to obtain is the make, model and serial number of the equipment. From this we can determine the age of the equipment. If it is 15 years and older, it definitely is approaching the end of its useful life. It makes sense to add the cost of the replacement into the home loan. The energy savings will usually more than make up for the small increase in your mortgage.

The short answer to your question is “yes” it should have been caught, but it comes down to having the HVAC system specifically checked for proper operation and installation. AirWorks offers these inspections at a flat rate and have been called by both buyers and sellers to do this work. The inspection report is another useful tool to bring to the negotiations table. As always, estimates and good advice are free at AirWorks.

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