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Do a Basic HVAC Inspection in a Home You Might Buy


Before you buy a home, have a home inspector or HVAC expert look the heating and cooling system over to make sure it is in good shape. However, you will only take this step once you are seriously interested in a particular home.

In the early stages, when you consider numerous homes, you can do a basic and quick inspection of the HVAC system yourself. This allows you to identify any potential problems that affect whether or not you want to make an offer. To conduct a basic HVAC inspection of a home for sale, follow these steps.

1. Check for Dirty Vents

Look at the vents and vent covers. They should be relatively clean and dust-free. If they have dust and dirt, this could indicate that the ducts are also very dirty. Dirty ducts will lead to a dirty home and potentially to unwanted allergy symptoms. If you do end up buying this home, you will probably need to clean the ducts.

2. Look at the Furnace Filter

Make sure to ask the homeowner or realtor if you can look at the furnace filter. If they're okay with this, locate the furnace filter and pull it out of its slot. Is it relatively clean or dirty? Changing the furnace filter regularly is a basic HVAC maintenance task. If the homeowners don't change their filter often, they may not have kept up with other HVAC maintenance, either.

Moreover, pushing air through a dirty filter puts a lot of strain on a furnace or air conditioner. Breakdowns are more likely in equipment that have a dirty filter.

3. Determine the Furnace and Air Conditioner Age

You should assess the age of the equipment to deduce how soon you might need to replace it. Often, the furnace or air conditioner will have a sticker or stamp on it indicating the date of installation. The manufacture date may be on the side or along the bottom of the unit.

According to This Old House, furnaces last about 15-20 years, and air conditioners last 10-15 years. If a home has an older unit, this does not necessarily mean you should not make an offer. However, if you do end up buying the home, you should be prepared to replace the furnace or air conditioner in the next few years.

4. Check the Thermostat Type

Does the home have an old, dial-style thermostat, a programmable thermostat, or a new WiFi thermostat? You can always upgrade the thermostat after you move in, but not having to do so is nice. WiFi thermostats are convenient, and even a basic programmable thermostat saves you so much energy compared to the old, dial-style type.

5. Listen for Weird Furnace Noises

The realtor should be happy to turn on the furnace and let you listen to it run. If the furnace makes any rattling noises, this usually means a component is about to come loose. A banging noise when the furnace turns on indicates the burners need cleaned.

If the furnace is anything other than quiet, make sure you have an HVAC contractor take a good look before you make an offer.

6. Be Wary of Weird Smells

Pay attention to strange odors when the furnace runs. If the furnace has been off for a long time, a slight dusty odor is nothing to worry about. However, a smoky smell, electrical odor, or the smell of rotten eggs are not good signs, and you should think twice about buying the home unless the current homeowners make HVAC repairs before purchase.

If you notice anything amiss when doing a cursory inspection of the HVAC system, bring this up to the realtor. They may have more information about existing problems with the HVAC system, and they can offer you guidance if you're still interested in making an offer in spite of some HVAC issues. If you want an HVAC company to take a look, contact Capitol Service Company.