What is a HVAC Inspection?
In mild weather, broken heating or air conditioning might not seem like such a big deal. But come winter or summer, you’ll definitely want your HVAC system working well! Sudden failure of heating or cooling is often due to deferred or improper maintenance. Homeowners and home buyers who pay for simpler annual HVAC inspections are rarely surprised with a huge repair bill or failure from their furnace or air conditioner. Home shoppers are well-advised to pay for an HVAC inspection from a specialist, in addition to a home inspection during the home buying process. A full HVAC inspection is a thorough review and assessment of all components related to heating and cooling your home. During an HVAC inspection, the technician will check the condition of your HVAC appliances, check electrical components for any failures, test airflow through your home, and more.
Why should you get an annual HVAC inspection?
An annual HVAC inspection will actively reduce your need for repairs and improve the energy efficiency and air quality in your home. As a homeowner, you’ll know how your system is doing and won't be surprised when the need for repair or replacement arises. The Achilles heel for many homeowners is a “fix it and forget it” philosophy when it comes to appliance maintenance. Waiting until the last hour before a system dies could mean that you're in for some unpleasant news when you finally have a professional assess the damage.
THE HOME BUYER’S HVAC INSPECTION
Moving into a new home is an exciting time in your life. But it can also be a rather stressful and expensive process. Often, homeowners find themselves buried under unexpected expenses after purchasing a new home. How does this end up happening? Home inspectors frequently fail to notice that important systems may need maintenance, repairs, or replacement during the standard preliminary home inspection. That's why you need an HVAC inspection before you move into your dream home.
Why Does A Home Buyer Need An HVAC Inspection?
An HVAC inspection is a great way to avoid the surprise expenses and stress from dealing with an old, malfunctioning, or broken HVAC system. This thorough evaluation will be able to determine the efficiency and condition of each part, and whether or not to expect replacement, costly repairs, or high utility bills when you settle in. Something is wrong! High utility bills can be a red flag you have an HVAC problem. A standard home inspection is necessary for discovering any glaring problems before move in day. The inspector will assess the roof, structure and foundation of the home, as well as test to make sure all plumbing, electrical work, and HVAC equipment are functioning. This is a general evaluation that simply tests if the HVAC equipment turns on and off. Although a home inspection is important, the inspector is not an HVAC technician, nor do they possess the HVAC tools required to thoroughly evaluate and understand your Heating and Cooling system. Your HVAC system is central to your comfort; give it the attention it deserves. Depending on the status of the HVAC unit, you may also be able to negotiate on better terms and potentially save money on the house purchase. So let's learn what a HVAC specialist evaluates during an HVAC inspection!
Can I just do an HVAC inspection myself?
Unless you’re a licensed HVAC technician, chances are you won’t have the knowledge to perform an inspection that is as thorough and sharp-eyed as would a professional. On the flip side, you will gain an advantage by understanding what technicians look for when inspecting your furnace and air conditioning system.
Why do warranties mandate annual maintenance?
It’s easy to discount advice about HVAC inspections when it is coming from an HVAC repair company. We promise that we have your best interests in mind! The truth is that furnace and AC manufacturers have designed their products with annual maintenance intended. Parts will wear out and dust and particles can cause blockages and energy inefficiency without regular inspection and maintenance.
If your machines are more than 10 years old, you might even consider having an HVAC inspection performed in both spring and fall. Once systems hit this age, replacement is often recommended over paying for major repairs. Warranties commonly do not cover damage caused by improper maintenance.
Doesn’t the home inspector look at the HVAC, too?
Yes, a home inspection contractor will evaluate the fitness and repair of home HVAC appliances, but they also have a lot of territory to cover during the inspection time. An HVAC inspector will open up the furnace and do a much more in-depth assessment of these critical and expensive home appliances. Though many home inspectors are extremely thorough, they are not required to have the in-depth specialized knowledge that comes standard with a HVAC inspection. If you are shopping for an older or historic home, you will want as much information as possible about upcoming expenses to your HVAC system.
What is included in an HVAC inspection?
Home Inspection HVAC Checklist
Voltage testing and checking electrical components for failures.
Lubricate moving parts.
Inspect condensate drain for blockages.
Check thermostat settings and test calibration.
Check electrical connections.
Inspect the quality of installation.
Inspect the condition of your HVAC appliances.
Test safety controls.
Test for problematic airflow through the home.
Inspect components of blower.
Check refrigerant pressure.
Test gas piping and pressure
Test heat pump heating mode and defrost cycle
Inspect the condensate drain for clogs and blockages
Professional HVAC Inspection and Maintenance
Regular HVAC inspections are designed to boost your heating and cooling system’s efficiency by identifying potential areas of trouble and resolving them. This summer is going to be hotter than average, and one of the most important steps you can take as a homeowner is scheduling your seasonal HVAC inspection. The best way to enjoy problem-free home comfort throughout the year is to schedule a biannual service with your trusted heating and cooling company. Preventive air conditioning maintenance, like changing air filters, cleaning ducts, and inspecting for warning signs, will keep your HVAC system running at peak efficiency, potentially saving energy and lowering your cooling bills. During these inspections, your technician will not only ensure that your system is working efficiently, but also keep you up to date on the age, condition, and potential upgrades available for your heating and AC system.
Now let’s cover some basics about what your HVAC inspection will consist of, and what you as a homeowner can expect.
Important System Safety Checks -Your HVAC system incorporates several moving parts and electrical systems; if you have a gas-powered furnace or heater, this appliance also contains a combustion assembly as well. Over time, wear, dirt, and weather can affect the condition of these air conditioning components, posing a hazard if they are not checked regularly. During an HVAC inspection, your technician will check that all the parts of your HVAC system are clean and in good repair to eliminate any safety hazards; additionally, any built-in safety measures will also be checked to ensure they are working properly. Your HVAC technician will also take a thorough look at any vents or flues to make sure they are clean, undamaged, and vented properly to the outdoors. Because the condition of your HVAC system affects the quality of your indoor air, your technician will inspect your HVAC equipment and any associated ducts for dirt and dust buildup. If cleaning or repair is needed, your technician will alert you; in many cases, simple cleaning and maintenance can be performed immediately, but larger jobs, such as duct cleaning, may require additional appointments.
Assessment of Your Heating and Cooling Efficiency - The goal of HVAC inspections is not only to ensure home safety, but also to determine whether your furnace and air conditioner are meeting your current home comfort needs. Your HVAC system’s efficiency relies heavily on the condition, installation quality, and size of the appliances currently in your home. When your HVAC system is dirty or in poor repair, it must work harder to achieve home comfort, requiring more energy that leads to higher monthly totals on your cooling bills. Similarly, a system that is not sized correctly or simply cannot meet your needs will consume excess energy and often leave you feeling less comfortable than you’d like. An HVAC inspection will identify areas where cleaning, repairs, or replacement could benefit your home in terms of overall heating and cooling efficiency. In many cases, cleaning, lubrication, and minor repairs are all that’s needed to keep your HVAC system operating at peak output; however, your technician will also note issues such as aging or improperly sized appliances so you can consider alternative options, and if AC system replacement is necessary.
Your HVAC technician should perform the following services during your tune-up:
Coolant level and pressure checks
Electrical system inspection and tightening, including wiring, contacts, capacitors and relays
Evaporator coil and condensate drain cleaning
Cleaning and inspection of the condenser, outdoor disconnect, fan motor and blades
Lubrication as needed
Plus more safety and efficiency checks
You can expect the inspection process to take up to an hour, depending on the configuration of your system. If refrigerant is needed, then you can expect an additional 30-45 minutes. ARS/Rescue Rooter technicians will present your AC tune-up checklist upon completion and share any recommendations for your air conditioning system.
Thermostat -To start off, it is important to make sure that your thermostat works properly. The contractor will test the device and inspect any internal wiring in order assess if everything is functioning as it should. During a standard home inspection, the heat or AC may come on, but you will not be able to determine if the thermostat is reaching it set temperature or not.
Furnace Cabinet - Next, the HVAC technician examines the structure and connections of the cabinet. This is important to inspect because it is where the internal furnace components are located.
Furnace Electrical Components - While inside the furnace cabinet, the HVAC professional evaluates all electrical connections and test all safety features, such as the high limit switch. This safety feature turns the furnace off when it is overheating.
Furnace Blower Wheel - Next, they assess the cleanliness and efficiency of the furnace blower wheel. The blower wheel pushes the circulating air through your HVAC system and back into your duct work. If it is not working properly you will have HVAC will struggle to keep up with the demands of your household, and your utility bills will skyrocket.
Furnace Ignition - They must inspect the cleanliness and functionality of the burners, flame sensor, and igniter. When any of these features become dirty it can lead to your furnace blowing cold air or inconsistent heating. This is the reason regular maintenance is important for preventing a heating repair.
Furnace Exhaust Venting & Heat Exchanger - Next, the HVAC contractor inspects the condition of the flue pipe, and cracks or holes in heat exchangers. Carbon monoxide will leak out any cracks or holes in the heat exchanger or flue pipe. If you want peace-of mind, hire only HVAC professionals who know what they're doing so you aren't at risk for carbon monoxide poisoning or a gas leak.
Checking the Heat Exchanger for cracks - Gas & CO Test - Safety checks are conducted by your HVAC contractor to determine if there is a gas leak or Carbon Monoxide leak. This is critical for your safety since gas is explosive and Carbon Monoxide poisoning is fatal. Both can have deadly consequences if not addressed. Additionally, they assess if the CO detectors in home are functional.
Air Conditioning System Inspection
Air Conditioning System Inspection - For your air conditioning inspection, the HVAC specialist inspects your AC system's Evaporator Coil, which is located indoors above the furnace. If it's frozen, dirty, moldy then you're in trouble! You'll have significant air flow problems if this goes untreated for too long. AC Evaporator Coil
AC Drain Pan - The AC drain pan is a common source of leaks and mold. So during an HVAC inspection, the HVAC inspector assesses the condition of your AC drain pain, before water potentially leaks all over your new home. This is a common sources of AC dripping water.
AC Condensation Line - Examining your condensation lines is an important step to ensure you stay comfortable and don't experience any water leaks. The HVAC contractor takes a look at the line to see if it's clogged, has loose connections,cracks, or holes. They will also takes a deep look at the condensate trap and condensate drain or condensate pump to assess if they are clogged. Pour water down the condensate drain line to test if it is clogged.
Outdoor AC Condenser & Blower Fan - For the outside AC system, the HVAC pro inspects the condition of the AC condenser unit. They go on to evaluate the efficiency and condition of condenser fan and fan motor.
AC Refrigerant Levels - Next they check the refrigerant levels. Many times when you run into AC problems, like AC freezing up or insufficient cooling, it is due to low refrigerant. If you need to refill your refrigerant, it is important to know that the popular refrigerant Freon R-22 is now banned.
AC Electrical Components - The HVAC specialist inspects and tests all electrical connections and wiring. They assess efficiency through measuring voltage and amp draws. Testing the efficiency of the internal AC condenser wires. The HVAC technician examines the motor capacitor and measures amps to make sure everything's in working order. A problem with your capacitor may cause your AC to make a humming sound, to randomly shut off, or not blow cold air or not even turning on.
Air Flow Inspection
Inspecting for Duct Leaks & Testing for Proper Air Flow - During an HVAC inspection, an HVAC pro evaluates if your HVAC system has proper air flow. They do this by inspecting the external condition, testing the air temperature throughout the duct system, and testing the static pressure to ensure proper air flow. Without proper air flow you could be paying high energy bills while still not receiving the comfort you deserve. This could be a result of leaky air ducts, incorrectly sized air ducts or HVAC system, or an air flow restriction. Next they will inspect your duct work for any damages. HVAC Pro checking the static pressure in order to see if there are any leaks in the duct work. When checking your air flow, The HVAC technician assesses the furnace filter and determines if it should be replaced. They also evaluate all grilles, registers, and vents to make sure they are open and properly working, as well as that your damper is facing the correct direction. On a side note, be aware that the quality of air in a house can be greatly impacted by whether or not the house has a whole-house dehumidifier installed.
Common Problems Found in HVAC Inspection
In the long run, these common issues can cost you a lot of money, but are often missed by standard home inspections. Find out what problems you may encounter with your new home:
Gas Line Leak - A gas leak is very dangerous and can cause your home to explode if you are unaware.
Rusty heat exchanger - A cracked heat exchanger is a safety hazard due to the Carbon Monoxide seeping out of the cracks. We can not stress enough how fatal Carbon Monoxide poisoning is. A cracked heat exchanger will need to be repaired immediately and it is a very expensive repair.
Rusty and deteriorating flue pipe - A rusted or loose flue pipe can cause carbon monoxide to escape into your home. It may even eventually make your HVAC system shut off due to the safety mechanisms in place.
Dying Blower Motor - Dirt strains the blower motor and it can ultimately lead your HVAC system not operating at all. And, the more dirt there is on your furnace blower motor the higher your energy bills will be. As a result, the heating and cooling unit becomes inefficient. This can often lead to unusually high energy bills, strange sounds coming from your HVAC system, and thermostat not reaching set temperature, and no heat.
Clogged condensate line - The most common reason for a furnace leaking water is a clogged condensate line. A clogged drain can also cause your AC leaking water. A water leak may pose a risk for internal furnace damages and could lead to a cracked heat exchanger. A cracked heat exchanger is a very expensive repair.
Faulty Wiring - Dirty wiring or poor wire connections either in your thermostat, control board, or internal furnace or air conditioning will cause miscommunications throughout your entire HVAC system. HVAC wires and electronic components need to be cleaned, tightened, and adjusted periodically. This is why frequent maintenance is essential for a properly working HVAC system.
Under or Overcharged Refrigerant - If you have improper refrigerant levels, you will have cooling problems. If your AC has overcharged refrigerant, your compressor will work harder and suffer substantial damage. In this circumstance you will need an AC replacement. If the HVAC inspector discover's low refrigerant, you may experience your AC freezing up, insufficient cooling, or frequent AC short cycling. Improperly charged refrigerant typically leads to a costly repair or total AC system replacement.
Cracked or Leaky Duct Work - Did you know a leak in your duct system or poorly connected ducts can cause 20 - 30% of the air that moves through them to be lost ? If you have a hole or loose connection in your duct work, then your money, comfort, and efficiency are gone with the wind.
Dirty Or Clogged Filters - Since HVAC units are used on a regular basis, it is highly likely that it's filters are dirty or clogged. Dirty filters are a seemingly small issue but can lead to your uncomfortable temperatures, aggravated allergies, your AC freezing up, utility bill increasing, and over all temperature discomfort. Air filter change outs should be happen minimally every 3 months.
Dirty Or Clogged Evaporator Coil - The coil is the indoor part of your AC, typically located above your furnace. If it is dirty, clogged, or frozen, air will struggle to pass by and into your home. Therefore you will have inadequate heating and cooling and will need a HVAC repair to regain your comfort. This is an air restriction that will make you question if your HVAC system can keep up.
Dying HVAC System - It is very shocking how many homeowners inherit an HVAC system that is on deaths door. Many homeowners are unaware of how old their HVAC system really is. During an HVAC inspection, not only is the condition of the HVAC system evaluated, but the age is determined as well. This is critical information when determining when you will need to replace the HVAC system in your new home. If it is over 10 years old, it is highly recommended that you start considering replacement. This is the age that the cost of the problems you will experience aren't always worth the repair. A thorough HVAC inspection will uncover these problems before you move in, but you should schedule yearly furnace maintenance and air conditioner maintenance to prevent these problems from arising once you're settled in.
What Are The Limitations Of An HVAC Inspection?
1. Accessibility - During the inspection of your HVAC system, some components may not be accessible, such as parts of your duct work.
2. Seasons - The inspection of air conditioning becomes more difficult when the outdoor temperature is below 60 degrees. Similarly, heating inspections are limited if outdoor temperatures reach 80 degrees or higher. This poses a problem because we can't inspect certain parts of the HVAC systems during different seasons; and it's important to know which season will pose limitations for HVAC contractors : summer & winter (high) versus spring & fall (low).
Don’t worry we have you covered at Blue Olive Tree Home Inspections!