Did you know colder climates can make it harder to determine the functionality of a home’s systems? If you’re purchasing a home at a time when temperatures are falling, it’s important to enlist the services of a seasoned home inspector, says the National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA), especially when assessing the HVAC system.
When temperatures fall below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, a home inspection report can only verify that a unit will turn on, not if it actually cools. In winter, the coldest spot in a refrigeration circuit is in the compressor crankcase, located outside the home. Because refrigerant naturally migrates to the coldest spot in the unit, if the system is tested, the refrigerant may travel into the compressor, causing damage.
Ensure your home inspector pays special attention to the testing of the HVAC unit, and request the seller provide a home service contract as part of the transaction to help insulate yourself from costly repairs or replacements for undetected problems. In addition to HVAC systems, home service contracts generally provide service, repair or replacement for items such as dishwashers, ovens, disposers, and electrical and plumbing systems, but do not cover pre-existing conditions. Paying particular attention to the contract’s terms and conditions can help avoid confusion when a service call is needed.
To offer reassurance that the system is operating properly, real estate agents representing the buyer will generally ask the seller to sign a form stating the date of the last time the air conditioning system was fully functioning. If a home has been on the market for an extended period of time, however, this statement may not provide accurate information on the current condition of the unit.
“If a house has been sitting empty and an undetected leak has slowly depleted the refrigerant, the new owner will have no idea until they turn the air conditioning on in the summer,” says Jeff Powell, NHSCA chairman. “At that point, a service call to get the refrigerant level back up and the unit running will likely cost upwards of $250 to $300. They also need to understand that low levels would indicate a leak in the line that will continue to deplete refrigerant until it is located and fixed. That translates into more repair dollars for the homeowner.”
In the past, some homeowners have opted for a temporary fix by simply having refrigerant added to their systems to keep them operational. However, a dramatic increase in the cost of refrigerant can make this approach as costly as a repair.
Published with permission from RISMedia.