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Testing and Maintaining the HVAC Throughout the Home Buying Process

Are you about to buy a home? Unless it's a new construction, you may want to check the HVAC system. New home buyers often check the roof and the foundation of their home, but may not realize that the HVAC system is extremely important as well. A new HVAC system can cost anywhere from $6,000 to $17,000, so you want to make sure it’s in good shape.

During the First Inspection
During an open house, you can usually tell whether the heating and cooling system is operating as it should. Do you hear it kicking on at intervals? Does it never stop running? If the air conditioner is on, does the air feel cool? If the heater is on, does the air smell musty?

Don't be afraid to ask to look at the HVAC system. Though you may not be able to tell much without a professional, you'll at least be able to visually assess whether it appears to be an older or newer model. Ask the seller when the HVAC system was last replaced and (equally importantly) how often it has required repairs within the past few years.

Before the Sale Closes
Once you've decided on a home, it's time to get more serious about the HVAC system and its needs. Usually, an HVAC system will have notes on it regarding when it was last serviced and when it was installed. 

At this point, if the system is older, bring in a professional. The professional should assess any issues with the HVAC system and give you a quote on either repairing it (if necessary) or replacing it.

If your system is going to need replacement, calculate that into the cost of purchasing the home. There may be other homes of equal value that have newer HVAC systems, and that could be a difference of $20,000 off your purchase price.
If there are meaningful repairs to be done to the HVAC system, request that they be done before the sale is completed and that the cost be rolled into the purchase price. This is a common part of standard negotiating tactics. 

After the Sale Closes

After the sale closes is a good time to do some maintenance. Have the HVAC system tuned up, the filters replaced, and the ducts cleaned. If repairs still have to be done, complete them early so the problems don't get worse. 

If you choose an older home, you may want to get a home warranty. A home warranty is going to cover issues you experience with your home's HVAC system and appliances, usually for a set period such as three to five years.

Home warranties usually aren't advisable unless you expect serious problems to occur, as they still have deductibles and require you to go through the warranty for any repairs, but a warranty may be worth it for an older home.

Regular Maintenance
As a new homeowner, you should also get used to maintaining your HVAC system. General maintenance includes:
  • Cleaning around the exterior unit and preventing brush and overgrowth from blocking it. 
  • Changing out the air filters and cleaning the ductwork (often best done professionally).
  • Clearing the compressor for the air conditioner of dirt and grime (also often done by a professional, as it requires opening the unit).
An annual maintenance check is usually enough to keep your HVAC system in tip-top condition, though you should remember that most of them have a lifespan of about 15 to 20 years. After that, it's often best to replace them. 

Identifying and resolving problems with your HVAC system early on will keep you comfortable and within your budget. Just make sure you enlist help when you need it. The experts at Heatcraft Heating & Cooling can help you at every stage of the process, from an initial consultation to a replacement quote.