We thought the scorching month of August would be a great time to honor one of America’s most notable inventors and discuss another important part of a complete A-Pro 500-point home inspection.
First, a few words about the inventor to whom we all owe a debt of gratitude, especially if you live in hotter climates. It was in July 1902 that Willis Haviland Carrier, an engineer from Angola, NY, would forever make summer days a lot more pleasant by designing the first modern air conditioning system. Anyone who has ever suffered through a mid-August day with the A/C on the fritz will understand why T TIME magazine placed Mr. Carrier on its list of the “100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century.”
Today, it’s easy to take for granted the comfort we feel when switching on central air. It’s only when the unit conks out that many homeowners understand what life must have been like before Carrier’s life-changing invention. It’s another reason why it’s critical to hire a certified home inspector, like those at A-Pro Home Inspection, before signing on the bottom line.
Your inspector will provide a visual and operational check of the cooling system, if possible. During colder months, running the air conditioner when there are low ambient temperatures in the home may cause damage to the system. Further, the inspector may observe conditions that make operating the system potentially dangerous, such as burned wiring or open fans. In this case, the inspector will perform a visual inspection only. Inspectors are also not required to inspect window units and electronic air filters, or determine cooling system supply or balance. During the inspection, your inspector will turn on the system and check to see if there is a sufficient change in temperature. If possible, the inspector will provide the age, model, and type of system. Homeowners should be aware that this is not a technically exhaustive examination of the equipment involved.
Last year we provided a brief checklist of cooling system problems that have been found by the inspectors at A-Pro over the last 27 years. Here are more details of what your home inspection report may include if you have a split system:
Exterior Air Conditioner or Heat Pump Compressor/Condenser: Some of the issues that can affect cooling efficiency and/or reduce the lifespan of the compressor/condenser include units that have been installed too close to a wall, trellis, porch, or deck, which can restrict airflow; proximity to ivy, shrubs, and other plants that can also curtail air circulation; presence of rust; blockage of the condensing coil—another sign that air may not be circulating as it should; loose, bent or crushed fins; oil leaks—a possible indication of motor damage, along with smells and noise detected when running; units not completely installed above ground; and a fan that won’t start, won’t stop, runs slowly, starts with difficulty, makes unusual noises, or appears to wobble.
Heat pumps that freeze up in the summer will be noted. While there are a range of possible causes for this (e.g., dirty coils, poor airflow from blocked return vents, drop in pressure due to low refrigerant), it is beyond the scope of the inspection to determine why the issue is occurring.
Units which are not level are of particular concern since this tilting can lead to damaged refrigerant lines. A sinking concrete A/C pad, for example, can pull the lines tight, which is not recommended. Your home inspector will also note the age of the exterior unit; typically, they have a lifespan of one to two decades of use.
Interior Equipment: In the interior of a home, your home inspector may find a number of problems with the cooling system. The inspector will check for leaks in the air handler that can invite harmful mold growth, damage to insulation, and corrosion. Mold in or near an air handler can occur even in newer units, so don’t dismiss this part of the inspection based on the age of the system alone. The combination of dust and condensation makes this equipment a prime candidate for biological growth if water is not draining out of the condensate line as it should.
Condensate leakage from the system can damage a home, leading to staining, structural decay, and conditions such as mold growth in attics and crawlspaces where the inside A/C unit may flow into. The inspector will note issues like blocked condensate lines, missing drip trays, poorly connected condensate drain lines, and red flags such as leaks in the overflow tray. The inspector may also find a recommended float switch installed in the overflow tray that automatically shuts off the A/C when a leak occurs.
It is highly recommended that homeowners receive an annual inspection/cleaning by an HVAC specialist to keep the system in top condition. Other practices, such as regularly changing the filter can maintain efficiency and extend the life of the system.