A proper home inspection is designed to give homeowners and/or potential homeowners information about the functionality and condition of a property. This critical information is especially valuable for buyers in becoming aware of costs related to immediate or future repairs. Once of the main components in the inspection is either a forced-air furnace or a combined heating/cooling system, also known as an HVAC unit.
Forced-Air Furnace Issues
In the US, many homes operate with a forced-air furnace heating system. In a forced-air furnace, oil or gas is used to heat a piece of metal and a fan then pushes the warmed air into a series of ducts. These ducts carry the warm air throughout the house. A cold-air return feeds air back into the system.
Here are the most common problems found with forced-air furnaces:
• Electrical issues – If the home doesn’t have adequate electrical service a fuse may blow or breaker may trip easily during heavy use.
• Old/ill maintained system – These systems are not designed to last forever. Old units could cause cracked heat exchangers to leak gases into the home. Other health or safety issues could arise from heating and cooling systems operating past their designed life span.
• Ductwork issues – Air ducts improperly installed are likely to have broken connecters or cracks that cause the air to vent into areas other than the intended rooms. Most often, this air is venting into attics or walls. It’s also possible for the ductwork to create moisture issues in the crawlspace, especially in areas like Middle Tennessee where we have high humidity.
• Dirty filters – Filters must be changed regularly to keep sufficient air flow and prevent issued with heating and cooling functions. Today’s filters also help clean the air while the unit is running. Blocked or clogged filters not only disrupt the flow of the air, they compromise the air quality.
• Flue pipe issues – Again, if the installation wasn’t performed properly the exhaust gas created during combustion won’t vent outside correctly. This flue should always be kept away from any flammable materials.
If your home or potential new home has a combined heating/cooling system, these are the most common issues found during a home inspection:
• Clogged condenser coils – Ever notice how shrubs and other obstructions are usually at least 1 foot away from a condenser unit outside? That’s because if the coils get clogged airflow becomes restricted. It is possible to clean the coils with a small brush or vacuum to optimize heat transfer.
• Weather – Believe it or not weather can affect a home inspection of the air conditioner. If temperatures are not warm enough to test the unit the inspector is unable to check its functionality. Turning the unit on when it’s too cold outside could result in extensive damage and should be avoided.
• Insulation issues – Like the forced-air furnace it’s important to check the installation of the air ducts and coils. Many homes in the Nashville area have a crawlspace, and your ductwork can create moisture issues in the crawlspace, especially during the hot, humid months from July to September. This is most often caused from missing or sagging insulation and can be fixed with better wrapping.
• Leaks – Part of the air conditioner unit may be located indoors. It’s often tucked into a basement, closet or attic. If the drain hose that removes condensation during the cooling process becomes clogged, it will eventually spill over onto the floor.
A home’s heating/cooling system is a significant part of any thorough home inspection and should be checked for both maintenance and condition. Need a home inspection or heating/cooling assessment? Click here for an appointment.