In the year 2021, we’re in the middle of an unprecedented boom in home buying and a red-hot housing market. With such a boom market going on, it’s important for home buyers to do their due diligence when looking at a prospective purchase and make an informed decision. As an HVAC tech, you can serve as a consultant to help guide a home buyer through this process. A proper HVAC inspection should be at the top of any home buyer’s list, heading off any potential HVAC headaches down the line.
For a homeowner, a builder or a technician, it’s vital to understand the basics of how an HVAC system works and to know what to look for in the context of a home purchase. To be fair, some HVAC or plumbing problems might be covered under a home warranty but why let homeowners set themselves up for that kind of trouble? Here’s a list of major areas to consider in your HVAC consultations for new or prospective homeowners:
Age of the System
Help the homeowner locate the manufacturer’s label or plate on the furnace or AC unit; most will have either the date of installation or the date of manufacture somewhere on that plate. The industry rule of thumb for the service life of an HVAC system is 10 to 20 years, and determining how old an existing system is will help the home buyer make a call as to how long it will be before components (or the whole system) will need to be replaced.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that newer systems tend to be a lot more efficient, and buying a home with an aging HVAC unit or furnace can mean a big spike in utility bills until it’s time to overhaul or replace what’s there. It is essential to identify a system that will need to be serviced or replaced to inform the homebuyers, should it be a bargaining point in negotiating a purchase price. Informing homebuyers of their HVAC system status and resulting replacement and update options will best position them to prepare for the investments in your recommended equipment sales and servicing.
Since the system was installed, it will help clarify what you can recommend to your clients by knowing who has been responsible for the HVAC servicing. Learning more about the unit and the previous outfit that serviced it, can lead to understanding if the equipment is still covered under warranty and what the specifics of the warranty is, if it’s still in effect. Knowing these details are important since some warranties are transferable to a new owner and others aren’t. Regarding the system’s maintenance, most companies will leave a sticker located directly on the unit, describing what was done and when and making it easier to track the unit’s service and repair history.
To help the new homeowner evaluate investing into a new HVAC system, explain to the homeowner how system ratings are calculated and what they mean. Most newer systems feature energy efficiency ratings that should give a ballpark idea of operating costs. The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating (SEER) is for air conditioning units, and the higher the SEER rating, the more efficient the system will be to run. For furnaces, the metric is Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE); the lower the AFUE number, the cheaper utility bills will be and the more fuel efficient the system is to run.
Homeowners should understand that a more efficient system (like a heat pump) might be more expensive to purchase and install, but it will more than pay for itself on the back end in terms of enhanced efficiency and lower bills. Often helping in the ROI calculations of these investments will be the difference in the customer’s decision to invest in such a project.
The home seller should be up-front and transparent about how energy bills have been running in the last few years, and it’s certainly not intrusive for the buyer to ask. In addition to the age and condition of the system, the buyer should also look for improvements like new double pane windows, weatherization, insulation in the attic or walls, new roof and a programmable thermostat, since those will make a big difference in a home’s efficiency.
Here are a few other things for you to advise prospective homeowner customers to be aware of:
- Visual inspection of the system; does it look like it’s in good shape, or does it look weathered and aged?
- What kind of system is it? Is it a heat pump, gas furnace, electric furnace? Remember that electric furnaces are one of the least efficient systems around, and also tend to provide a dry heat that many find uncomfortable. The US Environmental Protection Agency has stated that a humidity level of 30% to 50% is the right range for indoor comfort, so humidity control and management should be a consideration in any system.
- Where is the outdoor AC condenser located? Is there a gutter system that can prevent rainwater from pouring into the unit? A condenser shouldn’t be located too close to windows, especially bedroom windows.
- Advise homeowners to avoid attic installations; they’re harder to service, harder to install, can cause leaks and even damage to ceilings.
- Do a thorough inspection of the ductwork and registers, being mindful of potential leaks, mold, dust and any obstructions.
- Have a specialist do an assessment of indoor air quality, particularly any potential mold problems.
- If there’s a family member who has allergy or asthma problems, indoor air quality is of particular concern. Does the home have an air scrubber, dehumidifier or any other accessories to improve IAQ?
- What kind of refrigerant does the HVAC use? If the system is using R-22, that’s now a refrigerant that’s phased out and the new homeowner will need to retrofit the system for a replacement soon.
A home purchase is the single biggest investment most people make in the course of their lives, and there are a lot of steps involved in the runup to the purchase. Helping your customers make an informed decision through clarifying their HVAC system status and options will best position yourself for a successful long-term business relationship.
If you have any questions or would like to consult with our team, we’re here for you. We strive to go above and beyond to service our customers. We dedicate ourselves to fostering close, ongoing relationships in order to help customers grow their business. While offering only the highest-quality HVAC equipment and parts, we can provide you with the advice and expertise you need. Contact Us!
NuComfort LLC is a wholesale distributor of both commercial and residential HVAC systems. We also stock a full line of accessories and replacement parts. We have a long history of satisfied customers, and are ready to serve you from our three Chicagoland locations in Glendale Heights, Chicago and Crestwood.