When house hunting, homebuyers often neglect to consider a crucial factor – the house’s heating and cooling (HVAC) system. But the system that ensures a comfortable climate in a house, at a reasonable cost and without unnecessary energy waste, has a lot of bearing on how much you’ll enjoy the home in the future. Essentially, when you buy a house, you’re also buying an HVAC system, and if that system is inadequate in any of a variety of ways, you may come to regret the home purchase as well.
Consider these five factors when purchasing a home:
The type of HVAC system already in the home. Is it sufficient for the needs of you and your family? In nearly all cases, with the exception of ductless mini-split systems, a central heating and cooling system is more desirable than a collection of individual or portable units, either free-standing or installed in the windows. The HVAC system also should be properly sized for the house, and don’t automatically assume that this is the case. It’s not unusual at all for an unscrupulous or inexperienced HVAC contractor to try to up-sell a potential customer on a bigger system. The trouble with this is that oversized ACs, heat pumps or furnaces can create a number of problems in the home, including energy waste, stress on parts, unbalanced air distribution, and more. Before buying, ask a trusted HVAC contractor to inspect the existing system for sizing and other issues.
Location of the split-system’s units. The inside unit should have sufficient space to allow for maintenance and repairs. Its room should be well ventilated (many localities have codes that set the minimum square footage of a closet or room where a combustion furnace can be placed, and have rules covering the doorway for such a space). The outside unit (for an AC or heat pump) should be located where it won’t tempt thieves, in a shady area for more efficient operation, with enough open space around it to allow for plenty of airflow.
Available fuel sources. This is a bigger factor in northern climates where gas or oil heating is common. But it’s still important to consider how you intend to heat your home in the winter, and whether there’s a conveniently available source of fuel if you’re not using an electric heat pump, electric baseboards, or some other non-combustion heating system.
Age and condition. When buying a house, one of your main considerations should be the age and condition of its existing HVAC system. Just as you wouldn’t knowingly buy a car with a bad motor, you should avoid purchasing a house that has a failing HVAC system, or one that’s nearing the end of its useful service life. Ask the previous owner for a detailed maintenance and repair log, and for any warranties or guarantees that may still be in effect.
Energy efficiency. When possible, of course, a newer, top-quality HVAC system should be your goal when selecting a home. But that’s not always (or even frequently) possible. If nothing else, make sure the heating and cooling system in your new home is energy efficient. This not only helps save energy and protect the environment, it will mean lower energy bills for you as long as this HVAC system is operating in your home.