One of the most important things every homebuyer should evaluate is the home’s HVAC system. These letters stand for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, but you probably knew that. This system accounts for nearly half of home energy costs and can cause any number of problems if it isn’t working properly. You can save an enormous amount of time and money by understanding how an HVAC system works and how to maintain it.
1. Know Your HVAC System
The best starting point is knowing what kind of system is installed in your new home. Most homes are heated by a furnace and cooled with a whole house air conditioner. This system heats and cools using a compressor, condenser, coils, and ducts.
Less common here in Louisville is the boiler system. A boiler heats the home through hot water rather than air. It does not have a central cooling system so then the homeowners would need to manage cool air with window units or a mini-split system. There is also a ductless heating and cooling system that heats and cools zones within the home, eliminating the need for a whole house system.
2. Check It Out
Pay attention to the condition of the HVAC system and how you feel walking through the home. Rust and condensation on ducts and pipes may indicate that the unit is leaking, old, or not well-maintained. Check for air leaks in the ductwork that might increase energy costs.
Take note of any strange noises and uneven temperatures throughout the house. Is the upstairs much warmer or colder than the downstairs? If there there may be an issue with the system or insulation. You should have the HVAC inspected for less visible problems.
3. Ask for Paperwork
Don’t be shy about asking how old the system is and how often it has been maintained. The average lifespan of an HVAC system ranges from 10 to 30 years. This number is influenced wildly by how well it’s been maintained.
Maintenance work orders will also show any major repairs that were required. Knowing this information will help you plan for your energy bills and let you know where the unit falls in comparison to other units that are available. If the HVAC needs extensive repair or replacement, you may be able to negotiate the price or repairs with the seller.
4. Maintenance and Repairs
HVAC systems should be maintained annually by a qualified service technician. Follow the directions for the kind of filter the system uses and replace it regularly. You may need to replace it more often if you have pets or people with allergies.
If your air conditioner isn’t making your home cool enough, clear the outdoor compressor of plants and debris. Then check the insulation that covers the refrigerant lines going from the compressor into your home. Call an HVAC technician if you see leaking or hear strange noises, or if the unit is getting power but not turning on.
Your HVAC system will account for a large portion of your energy bill and affect the comfort in your new home. Knowing the state of your HVAC system will allow you to prepare for upcoming costs.