The New Homeowner's Guide to HVAC

Anyone’s first home purchase is a big deal, to say the least. It doesn’t take long to get caught up in the fun stuff, like decorating or maybe even remodeling, to make it your own. In all the excitement we tend to forget about what’s going on behind walls, in attics or crawl spaces, until there is a problem. Your HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) unit is one of those potential problem areas.

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HVAC units are vitally important in the function and comfort of the home. Your sanity, too. Nothing is worse than waking up to a 90-plus degree day and breaking a sweat before you've had your morning cereal ... no, coffee– we mean coffee. We know you want to save your pennies for more important things, so we want you to be as prepared as possible to make the right choices concerning your home and HVAC system. Did you know the U.S. Department of Energy says the HVAC unit uses nearly half your home’s energy costs?!

A home inspection will only really confirm that the unit is working at the time of inspection. Knowing the condition of the unit can also be beneficial in the negotiation process, as you may have to do repairs or a full replacement down the road. Arming ourselves with some easy to grasp information can save a great deal of headaches and cash in the long run. However, most of us are not HVAC professionals– so, how do we know just what we’re getting?

Here are some questions first-time homebuyers can ask and a few things to look for

How old is the HVAC unit?

Knowing a unit’s age will be a big benefit when budgeting for homeownership. Most first-time homebuyers are working with limited budgets and the cost of replacing a unit is not a welcomed expense. If a unit is more than 10 or 12 years old, be sure that some repairs will be encountered in the next few years. Most units last anywhere between 15 and 25 years.

What type of unit is it?

HVAC units vary quite a bit. There are boilers, furnaces, split-systems, which heat and cool, and ductless. These units can use electricity, natural gas or oil. The utility company or even the seller can provide you with recent averages for a home that you are considering. Find out about any extras that may be included. These include humidifier, dehumidifier, purification systems or even smart thermostats.

What kind of rating does the unit have?

Unlike utility bills, when it comes to energy-efficient ratings, the higher the better! In a furnace, look for AFUE or Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency rating. In an air conditioner, you are looking for the SEER rating or Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio.

Is there a warranty?

Is it transferable? Have the current homeowners done anything to void any warranty? Obtain the serial and model numbers and contact the manufacturer.

When was the last time the unit was inspected?

The HVAC unit is the hardest working part of your house. If the unit hasn’t received proper maintenance chances are there are some problems lurking. Ask to see any repair and maintenance reports.

What about the ductwork?

What does the inside of the ductwork look like? Is there a buildup of debris, dirt, dust or even worse– mold? Are there any leaks in the ductwork? Ask to see the last inspection of the ductwork as well.

Get yourself a copy of the home inspection.

As previously stated, a home inspection can only determine the condition of the HVAC unit at the time of inspection. An HVAC technician can give the unit a more thorough evaluation and determine if there are any issues.

This article was originally published on Associaonline.com and is republished with permission.