Buying a New House? Don’t Forget to Check Out the HVAC System
Nothing is as exciting as buying a new home. And if you’re looking for a home in an established area, it means you get all of the benefits of moving into a tightly woven community that already has things in place?
Shopping will be close by.
The school system will already be in place.
Your landscaping may be lush and mature. Who doesn’t enjoy the look of large trees and blooming shrubbery already in place?
Curb appeal is everything to a buyer as they contemplate their decisions.
Granite countertops? Check.
Open concept layout? That’s good too.
But as you’re moving from room to room, ticking the boxes on your wish list, don’t forget to ensure you have a properly working HVAC system too.
Nothing is worse than moving into a brand new-to-you home and having the furnace die on the first cold day. Or flipping the switch on the air conditioner as the summer heat rolls in, only to find the cold air is nowhere in sight.
HVAC systems are expensive. They are one of the most expensive systems in your home.
And according to Energy.gov, your heating and cooling costs will also account for about 48 percent of the energy use in your home. That makes it the largest energy expense. Don’t you want to ensure that your HVAC system is as efficient as possible?
What would a good HVAC service contractor tell you to look for?
The Age Of The HVAC System
Age is everything to a system as important as your heating and cooling. Furnaces, in general, will last around 15 years. Air conditioners will last about 10 to 15 years. If either piece of equipment is approaching the end of its useful life, it may be best to see if you can negotiate a deal with the seller to replace it with something new.
Examine the equipment and look for any signs of damage. Be on the lookout for rust, leaks, cracks, or dents. Turn on the furnace and air conditioner and listen for loud or abnormal noises. You should also watch as the equipment cycles and look for unusual shaking or rattling, whistling sounds, or any other indication that each piece isn’t operating as it should.
Ask the current owners about past repairs. The more repair issues they’ve faced, the better chance you’ll have problems of your own as you use the equipment in the upcoming seasons. Ask for copies of the maintenance and repair paperwork the owner has on file.
New equipment always comes with warranties in place. When you’re purchasing a new-to-you home, you may still be entitled to what’s left of the warranty. Ask the seller for a copy of the warranty if they have it.
Because half of your energy costs go toward heating and cooling your home, looking at the average utility bill in every season will be a good indicator of how efficiently the furnace and air conditioner run. If the current homeowner will disclose it, ask them about their average utility bills. This will give you a good idea of how efficiently the HVAC system operates and how much you can expect to pay each month.
Some homes here in the Pacific Northwest use a forced-air system to heat and cool the air. That means ductwork is used to carry conditioned air from the HVAC equipment to each room in your home. While your furnace and air conditioner are your biggest ticket items, there is no sense in wasting the conditioned air by having it leak out through your ductwork.
Leaky ductwork is a common problem, but many homeowners don’t even know it’s occurring. To ensure your home is not wasting energy, a Home Performance Test is highly suggested. This will identify if and where any ductwork is leaky, as well as check for unsafe levels of formaldehyde from building material, mold, mildew & random, identify drafty windows and doors, and more.
If the leaky ductwork is identified, Entek offers AeroSeal. Past efforts often involved duct tape, but AeroSeal is significantly more effective—up to 95%—and most homeowners see a $600 to $850 energy savings in the first year.
Look for condensation, loose connections, or gaps on visible ducts. You will also want to check and ensure they are clean and not full of several years of dust, biological growth, furnace particles, or any other thing that can degrade your indoor air quality.
Another crucial factor that impacts the efficiency of your HVAC equipment is the insulation. Ask the homeowners what type of insulation they have installed in their home. If possible, take a look in the attic. You can also take note of any drafts or rooms that are hotter or colder than the rest of the home, which is a sure sign the insulation isn’t up to par.
That may seem like a lot to take in as you’re honing in on your final selection for a home. But you’ll be happy you took the time to review the HVAC system when your first utility bill comes in.
If you are thinking of having the HVAC system either repaired or replaced before you purchase the home, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind.
Heating Size, Capacity, and Type
Not all heating and cooling equipment is the same. Before you settle on anything, ask the HVAC service representative about reviews of the system and whether it’s properly sized for the home.
Heating capacity is measured by BTU, which is equal to how much heat is needed to raise a pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. Input capacity measures the amount of gas burned, while output capacity measures how much usable heat is generated. Newer units have smaller input BTU ratings as they are more efficient at generating more heat. In general, the higher the BTU, the more heating capacity.
Don’t worry if it sounds a little confusing. The right HVAC service technician can help you select the right equipment for your needs. Too big and you’ll waste money and energy. Too small and you’ll overwork your system. So it’s important to get it just right.
Cooling Size, Capacity, and Type
Instead of operating with BTU, your air conditioner’s capacity is measured by ton. One ton is equal to about 12,000 BTUs per hour.
Your cooling equipment should be chosen based on the size and needs of your home. By working with a reputable HVAC service technician, you can choose an air conditioner to provide the right amount of cooling for your new home.
Did you know that the energy used in the average home is responsible for twice as many greenhouse gas emissions as the average car?
That’s why it’s more important than ever to make sure you are operating your home with the most energy efficient equipment as possible.
A furnace’s efficiency is measured by AFUE—Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. The higher the AFUE, the more efficient the furnace.
An air conditioner’s efficiency is measured by SEER—Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ration. The higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient the air conditioner.
Heat pumps also use a rating similar to SEER, called HSPF—Heating Seasonal Performance Factor. The higher the number, the more efficient the unit.
If you are installing new HVAC equipment, to achieve the optimum efficiency, a reputable HVAC service contractor will need to install it properly. These energy ratings mean very little if they aren’t properly installed.
Have questions about your heating and cooling equipment? Whether you’re contemplating the purchase of a new home, or are in the process of moving in, we’re here to help.