June 15, 2016

Home Inspection Issues: Red flags regarding air conditioning systems.

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 10:59 am

Whether you are doing a pre-inspection prior to listing your home for sale, or have hired an inspector for a typical buyer-ordered inspection prior to purchasing a home, the air conditioning system will likely come under scrutiny. That’s because heating and air conditioning systems are one of the most important and one of the more expensive mechanical systems in virtually any home.

Buyers tend to be especially concerned about the air conditioning system when they are planning to buy in the summertime, and that’s only natural since they have their comfort over the coming weeks in mind. But no matter what time of year an inspection is done, the inspector may report on the a/c system – and recommend that it, or some of its components, be more closely evaluated by an HVAC professional. Read the report, ask any questions you may have, and then follow whatever recommendations the inspector made.

Common Issues Often Cited in Reports
Since HVAC systems are complex, and cooling can be done in a variety of ways – from heat pumps to stand-alone central air conditioning units to window units or even old-fashioned “swamp cooler” devices, the issues cited can vary. But some of the main ones have to do with ductwork that is inadequate for the size of the home, has cracks or tears in it, or is not hung or installed correctly – which can inhibit air flow. Outdoor central air units may be too small for the square footage of a home, especially if additions to the home were made after the HVAC system was installed.
Then again, something as simple as bushes or trees growing near the outdoor a/c equipment could be a problem, because leaves could be blocking the fan. Or the unit could be rusty, or – and this is very common – not sitting upon the right kind of support. Central air conditioning equipment needs to be elevated, like on a small concrete pad, and not subjected to water runoff that could flood the unit.

Sometimes everything is working fine except for the thermostat, and that may be the kind of problem that can fixed for just a few dollars. Maybe the ductwork needs to be taped to prevent air from leaking, which is usually another easy and affordable fix. Likewise, the a/c filters may just need to be cleaned or replaced, or if you have window units they may need to be more safely supported to prevent them from falling out of the window. They may also be drawing too much electricity for the wall outlet, which might deserve a closer look by an electrician.

An inspector may also raise a red flag if they don’t see a separate circuit breaker, designated only for the central air conditioning unit, when they look inside the electrical breaker box. That often indicates that the work was not done by a qualified HVAC contractor or electrician, or that whoever did the installation failed to get a proper building inspection permit. If that’s the case, you will want to have a qualified HVAC contractor or licensed electrician do a further investigation.

What to Do Next
Whatever the concerns or suggestions in the report may be, you’ll want to pay attention to them, and that may entail hiring an HVAC professional to review any issues and do a closer investigation. If repairs or upgrades are needed, solicit competitive bids from at least three HVAC contractors, and then pick on to do the work. Or, if you are in negotiations for a home sale, you may want to postpone that step and instead have the buyer do the work later, after closing. In that case the seller usually offers cash compensation or lowers the final sales price to cover the estimated cost of repairs. After any repairs or upgrades are done, it is also a good idea to have the home inspector pay a follow-up visit to ensure they were done right and give the home a clean bill of health.

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