When it comes to buying a new home, one thing to keep in mind is that you should never let aesthetic appeal take over the decision-making process. Sure, the interior paint and layout of the floor plan are worth considering, but they’re mostly cosmetic and are relatively inexpensive to change. Your focus should be on the more expensive components like roofing, plumbing, electrical arrangement, and of course the home comfort system.
The HVAC system, together with utility bills and repair and maintenance costs, add to the home buying equation. As your trusted HVAC repair contractor, we’ve prepared a checklist of the various facets of the HVAC system that you must consider when shopping for a new home.
Age & Maintenance History
First, you must know how old the home comfort system is and how well it was maintained before the previous residential owner placed the property up for sale. There should be a label on the furnace, heat pump or air conditioner indicating the manufacturing and installation dates. Make sure to ask the seller if the unit is original or if it replaced a previous HVAC system. If it was installed more than 15 years ago, consider replacing it, because it’s nearing the end of its lifespan.
Moreover, be sure to ask the seller if they still have the service records of any repairs and maintenance performed on the HVAC system. If the previous owner took advantage of a maintenance plan, refer back to the contractor who has done the work. In addition to helping you stay within the warranty, the records also give you a clear picture of the HVAC system’s lifespan. Annual routine inspections help extend the equipment’s life expectancy, improve the home’s energy efficiency and minimize costly repairs. While this information might be enough, you can choose to schedule a professional HVAC inspection just to be sure.
Type of HVAC Installation
The type of HVAC installation depends on the areas of the home that need ample heating and cooling. A central AC system, for instance, is designed to distribute air through an extensive network of ducts. It may not be one of the first things to look for when shopping for a new home, but a savvy homebuyer takes duct design into account.
Ask a local residential AC contractor you’ve hired to schedule a professional HVAC inspection to take a look at a prospective home’s ductwork as well. Ask about duct leaks and how each one is sized and designed. The shape of the air ducts is something to consider as well. Round HVAC ducts are common in most homes because of their efficiency; rectangular ducts take up less height during installation and provide an easy connection between the fan coil and the primary duct.
If there’s no ductwork installed, expect the HVAC system to be the mini-split type. It usually consists of a wall-mounted indoor unit and an outdoor compressor. It’s less susceptible to air leaks and security problems because it only requires drilling a small hole into the wall. In addition to being less visible and audible, a mini-split HVAC unit is highly energy efficient and can provide adequate, consistent comfort in one or more rooms.
Another aspect of the HVAC system you need to consider when buying a home is the type of refrigerant it uses. Many HVAC systems have hydrochlorofluorocarbon-22 (HCFC-22) refrigerants, which are considered harmful by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This synthetic chemical gets released into the environment, depleting the Earth’s protective ozone layer and contributing to climate change. Because of this, the U.S. has phased out HCFC-22 and other related chemicals used as refrigerants, with this year marking the total ban on its remaining production and importation.
An HVAC unit that has an HCFC-22 refrigerant can still be used, but expect limited supplies because of the ban. As such, you may have to pay more to charge the equipment with refrigerant, with contractors relying on stockpiled refrigerants manufactured before 2020. Your best bet is to retrofit it with a better refrigerant alternative or replace the whole unit entirely.
According to ENERGY STAR®, heating and cooling take up about half of the energy used in the average home. That’s why the energy efficiency of the HVAC system is another thing to consider when you buy a home. The more energy efficient the unit, the more savings you can achieve on your monthly energy bills. Knowing what the unit’s corresponding rating is can help you determine whether or not you need to upgrade the HVAC equipment.
The Department of Energy established HVAC efficiency ratings to allow consumers to compare different air conditioners, heat pumps and furnaces. Like miles per gallon (MPG) in your car, the higher the rating, the better the home comfort system’s efficiency. Here’s a look at the standard rating systems:
- SEER – This stands for Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, and is used to compare the energy efficiency of different air conditioners. It’s calculated using the total amount of cooling provided during a single cooling season divided by the total electrical input within that season. Modern, high-efficiency ACs have a SEER rating ranging from 13 to 21.
- AFUE – This stands for Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency, and it’s used to measure the efficiency of furnaces and boilers in converting energy from the fuel they use into warm air. Like SEER, a high AFUE rating is an indicator of greater energy efficiency. The minimum standard is at 78%, with high-efficiency units ranging from 90% to 97%.
- HSPF – This stands for Heating Seasonal Performance Factor, and it’s used to measure the efficiency of split-system air-source heat pumps. The rating is calculated by dividing the total amount of heat—expressed in British Thermal Units per hour (BTU/h)—during the colder months by the total number of hours the system operated during the same period. The minimum rating stands at 8.2 HSPF, with high-efficiency heat pumps reaching up to 13 HSPF.
If you’re thinking about buying a new home, get in touch with Above Air Inc. in advance for a professional HVAC buyer’s inspection. Our residential and commercial HVAC technicians will conduct a thorough inspection of the entire unit, making sure to cover all bases. In addition to the sizing and design of the HVAC unit and ductwork, we’ll also check for any indoor air quality and moisture concerns and determine if it’s structurally sound. Using information from previous service records and assessment of the interior components, we can determine whether it needs a replacement or routine maintenance.
We’re a Carrier® Factory-Authorized dealer, which speaks to our commitment to providing quality products and services to our customers. Call us today at (954) 341-0816 (Broward) or (561) 488-0832 (Palm Beach) to get started. You may also fill out our contact form to request an estimate.