In some regions of the country, it’s popular for families to put their homes on the market in the spring and summer, when the property looks its best and warm breezes welcome in a parade of prospects. It’s no surprise that the busiest selling months for homes are May, June, July, and August, according to the National Association of Realtors®.
Keep in mind that when evaluating a home during hot weather, your brain—and body—may be solely focused on the presence and effectiveness of the cooling system. Yes, that’s important to note, but don’t stop there just because you’re sweating outside.
While you’re checking out a listing on a sunny August day (and you live in the Midwest, for example), try this experiment: Close your eyes and imagine that it’s the middle of January. Visualize the roof covered in three inches of freshly fallen snow. Imagine the temperature plummeting to 17 degrees below zero. Now you’re ready to ask some serious questions about what the home will feel like when winter winds howl.
You’ll also want to hire a certified home inspector, like those at A-Pro Home Inspection, to perform a complete foundation-to-roof home inspection, which includes an operational/visual assessment of the home’s heating system. Even if you may have overlooked this critical element of home comfort and energy savings, problems with the home’s heating system will not escape the eyes and ears of your home inspector who may discover shaky-sounding noises from the furnace, dangerous and ineffective positioning of flue pipes, old and/or poorly maintained equipment, and installation errors.
As any homeowner knows, repairing or replacing a heating system is not an inexpensive proposition, so the more you know, the better. Here’s a checklist of some of the items A-Pro’s inspectors have reported on since 1994:
Description of the Heating System: Is the primary energy source gas, oil, electricity, or wood? Is the system forced air, radiant, hot water radiant, supplemental plenum heater, steam, or unitary? Is heat distributed through ductwork, baseboards, unitary heaters, radiators, radiant piping, radiant ceiling wires/panels, or convectors? What is the name of the manufacturer of the heating unit(s)? What is the age of the unit(s), model number(s), and serial number(s)?
Furnace: Based on its age and make/model, is the unit nearing the end of its life? Does the furnace not turn on properly or not turn on at all? Has it been installed in an unsafe location? Is the air filter and/or condensate line dirty? Is the service needed on components? Is there no heat supply or low airflow? Are there cracks or breaks in the ductwork? Are there problems with the return air system?
Boiler: Will the boiler need likely replacement soon? Is there evidence of a prior leak? Is the expansion tank water-logged? Does the boiler have asbestos covering? Is it missing a pressure relief valve? Are there leaks, corrosion, or need for adjustments at any of these locations: relief valve, expansion tank, circulating pump, high-temperature limit control, low water cut-out control, or return leg?
Piping and Radiators: The inspector will check for leaks, corrosion, signs of prior leakage, and missing or damaged bleed valves.
Combustion/Exhaust System/Chimney: When checking combustion, the inspector will determine if the burners are old, rusty, dirty, or sooty. Questions include: Is there evidence of oil tank leakage, deposits, and flashbacks? Exhaust issues that will be noted include back drafting, improper flue clearance and slope, poor flue connections, and use of inappropriate venting material. When visible, the inspector will report on the need for a chimney liner, chimney obstructions, and other concerns.
Baseboard Radiant Heat: Is the heater old, inoperative, damaged, or have unsafe wiring? Is the controller damaged? Is there evidence of condensation/ventilation concerns?
Among other limitations, the inspector is not required to determine the uniformity, temperature, flow, balance, distribution, size, capacity, BTU, or supply adequacy of the heating system. Further, the inspector may determine that operation of the heating system—due to the ambient temperature in the home or other circumstances—may damage equipment or be unsafe to operate. The inability to operate heating equipment will be noted in the report.
Separate from the regular home inspection, A-Pro also performs related inspections including carbon monoxide testing and home energy audits, which let homeowners see how much energy the house is using and losing daily.
An evaluation of a home’s heating system is part of A-Pro’s 500-point home inspection. Ask your local A-Pro Home Inspection team about its complete foundation-to-roof inspection in Tacoma. To schedule one, call 253-330-5140 or visit the link below.