June 15, 2014

Home Inspections: Issues with Central A/C Units

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 8:56 am

The central air conditioning unit is one of the more significant systems that a home inspector will check when doing a buyer-ordered inspection or one ordered by a homeowner prior to listing. Sometimes during this kind of general and visual inspection the inspector will see telltale signs of potential problems or other evidence that indicates the need for a closer look. When that’s the case the inspector will likely explain the findings while also recommending that an air conditioning or HVAC contractor do a more thorough examination to determine whether or not repairs are warranted. That’s when the homeowner should call a qualified and experienced expert who is a central air conditioning specialist.

Issues Related to Capacity
Using the inspection report as a guide, the contractor will then check out the unit to see if it is functionally properly and has adequate cooling capacity for the size of the home. Sometimes people who own homes do a remodel, for instance, and add additional rooms and square footage. But they don’t bother to upgrade the air conditioner at the same time. That can often mean that their original unit is no longer powerful enough to cool the new, larger space. In that case the contractor and the inspector may agree that a higher capacity unit is needed. That could become a big financial challenge, because units typically range from $1,500 to more than $3,000. So it is imperative to heed the inspector’s suggestions and have the system properly evaluated.

Wiring and Installation Problems
Other issues that may arise include improper or unsafe wiring from the central air unit, or a lack of proper support beneath it. Unless the unit sits on top of a slightly elevated concrete pad that was properly installed, for instance, the unit itself could come in contact with the ground. That could cause rusting or, in wet weather, could allow water to seep into the unit from underneath and do other damage. If there is no fuse for the circuit breaker to interrupt the A/C unit in the event of an overload, that is a red flag that the unit was not properly inspected when it was installed. The owner may have failed to get a building permit, for instance, so the unit may not be up to code and a contractor will be needed to remedy that situation. Sometimes ductwork on forced-air systems like HVAC units may also be improperly designed or installed, which will interrupt or compromise air flow throughout the home. That’s another problem that a qualified contractor can alleviate to give you a more balanced system for greater comfort and energy efficiency.

Routine Scheduled Maintenance
Oftentimes the problem is much easier to address, however, because the unit could just need some routine maintenance. A contractor may find, for instance, that a capacitor in the unit has gotten old and needs to be replaced. The job is a simple one that doesn’t cost much, because a new capacitor only costs about $30. But degraded capacitors can but an extra workload on critical components of the system like the condenser fan’s motor and the compressor – eventually resulting in more serious and costly problems. Another component, the contactor relay switch, also costs about $30 but if it wears out the unit could fail. Likewise the fan motor should be replaced when it has passed its useful life. So it could be that when the inspection report recommends maintenance on the unit that will be an easy procedure that will, in fact, increase the longevity of your air conditioning unit and thus enhance your home’s value.

Following Up After a Closer Analysis
As with any potential repair that involves spending money, the buyer and seller will want to negotiate the cost. The seller will usually either pay cash at closing or reduce the sales price to help accommodate the expense of doing the repair or replacement. You won’t know what kind of money is involved, if any, until you first have an HVAC contractor study the situation. Then you can get 2-4 competing bids to figure out your actual costs. If you do need repairs or upgrades, it is always a good idea to have your inspector return for a follow-up visit to look over the work and give it a clean bill of health or make further recommendations as needed.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.