HVAC system considerations when buying a new home
Shopping for a new home can be an overwhelming and daunting experience. While doing walkthroughs and talking about paint colors and decorating can be fun, there are more important details that shouldn’t be overlooked when considered your new investment. You should be sure to inspect the plumbing, roofing, electrical work, and HVAC system of any and all homes that you look at. Not only are these things that can be incredibly costly to fix and replace, it’s also important to have an idea of how much these repairs and replacement costs are going to be before you bid on your new home so you can negotiate the purchase price and don’t get stuck with an unexpected expensive on top of your new mortgage.
Buying a new HVAC system in particular can be quite an investment, sometimes ranging into thousands of dollars. That’s why there are a few things to consider before you invest in a new home and a new HVAC system.
What you should look for in your new HVAC system
Inquire about your new home’s ductwork set up and HVAC system with your home inspector or a qualified HVAC technician. You’ll want to identify any duct leaks and ensure the ductwork currently installed is sized and properly designed for the home. In addition to ductwork, you’ll also want to get a good idea of what the insulation is like. Some ducts have external insulation, while others have internal insulation that can be difficult to assess the condition of. An HVAC technician will be able to provide you with specific information about the duct design, insulation condition, sizing, and any potential leaks or possibilities of leaks in the near future.
Refrigerant (specifically R-22)
If you’re unfamiliar with R-22, it’s a refrigerant that’s been banned by the EPA. Check to see if your home’s HVAC system uses R-22 refrigerant. If does, you’ll still be able to use R-22 to cool your home but it’s an expensive option and one that will no longer be available after the year 2020, when production of R-22 will cease. If your HVAC system still uses R-22, you’ll likely have to replace the system within the next couple of years and you should expect to pay more for service in the meantime.
Age and History
It’s important to inquire about the age and maintenance history of your new home’s HVAC system. Air conditioners and heat pumps need to be replacement about every 10 years and furnaces need replacement around 15. Ensuring that the home’s HVAC system was regularly maintenance can give you a better idea of the life expectancy of the components. If you find out that the HVAC system is around 10 years old, plan to budget and expect to pay for a new HVAC system within the near future. You’ll also want to consider age when you think about energy efficiency, low maintenance, and reliability to ensure you’re going to be comfortable in your new home. Ask the home’s seller if they have any information about maintenance, repairs, and age of the HVAC system. Oftentimes, a professional HVAC technician will leave a ticket on the HVAC showing when the last scheduled maintenance or repair occurred.
About half of your home’s energy bill goes towards the cost of heating and cooling your home. This is why efficiency is so important when reviewing the current HVAC system or a new HVAC system. The more efficient your HVAC system is, the less you’ll have to spend on your monthly energy bill.
How to evaluate efficiency?
- Air conditioner efficiency is measured by its SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ration) rating. The higher the SEER #, the more energy-efficient the unit is.
- Furnace energy efficiency is measured by its AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) rating. A higher AFUE rating means that the unit is more energy efficient.
- Heat pumps use an HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) rating to measure energy efficiency. Again, the higher the #, the more energy efficient the system.
Note: don’t rely solely on the numbers! If the units weren’t maintained and serviced properly, the systems energy efficiency may not be as good as you think. Schedule a professional HVAC inspection to have a professional give you a better idea of how energy efficiency your home’s HVAC system actually is based on its age and maintenance history.
In relation to efficiency, you should get a general idea of what you can expect to be paying in utility bills. Ask the seller of the house for recent utility bills to prevent future surprises when you buy the home and come to realize that the cost of your monthly mortgage is the same or lower than what you spend on electrical, HVAC, water, sewer, and trash bills.
Location of HVAC units inside and outside of the home
Part of your inspection should include where the current HVAC system resides. Indoor air handlers in the attic can lead to water leaks and serious (and expensive) water damage to your ceiling. HVAC units housed in the basement are less likely to cause serious damage to your home if anything goes wrong. You also want to check where your outdoor air conditioner is located. If it’s too close to bedroom windows the noise can interfere with your sleep. If the house is in an area susceptible to flooding, the unit should be elevated or placed on higher ground where it’s not going to be damaged. Another thing to look for is gutters placed directly above the unit. Damaged or missing gutters can lead to water runoff that could cause serious, irreparable damage to the air conditioner during the winter.
Ideally you should clean or replace your air filter every month or every other month, depending on how frequently you’re using your HVAC system. Since this is an easy thing to replace, you can check yourself to see if the home’s HVAC system requires it’s air filter to be cleaned or replaced and whether or not you have easy access to it.
If you have questions about the integrity of the HVAC system in the home you’re considering investing in, don’t hesitate to schedule an inspection with an experienced HVAC technician from A-Abel. We’ll go over the health and life expectancy of your HVAC system, as well as write up a report of any repairs or replacements you may need to consider in your budget.