There are a lot of things to consider when you’re buying a new home in Las Vegas, from choosing the right paint colors to planning the furniture arrangement. However, some aspects of the home have a greater impact on your future homeownership costs than others. While many homebuyers don’t pay much attention to the HVAC system, the savvier ones know that it’s one of the most important components in a new home. A properly functioning air-conditioner not only helps you survive the scorching-hot summers of Las Vegas; it also enables you to save a lot on your utility bills over the long run. So, be sure to make careful HVAC considerations when buying a new home.
HVAC Checkpoints When Buying a New Home
According to data released by the Department of Energy, heating and cooling make up about 48 percent of the total amount of energy consumed in a typical American home. The HVAC system in your new Las Vegas home will be your largest energy expense, so it’s worthwhile to check it thoroughly before making an offer to buy the home. Taking the following steps can help you create a comfortable home and make accurate calculations of your future energy costs.
Find the Locations of the Indoor and Outdoor Units
The first thing you need to do is look for the indoor HVAC unit in your prospective home. If it’s located in the attic, there’s a chance that water leaks may occur and cause costly ceiling damage. Indoor units in other areas of the house are significantly less likely to cause damage.
You should also find out where the outdoor condenser unit is located. If it’s too close to the windows of a bedroom, you or your family members may find the noise bothersome. Also, make sure you check the gutters above the condenser unit. If the gutters are damaged or there are no gutters, the unit is at risk of being damaged by water runoff, especially during the rainy or cold season.
Check the HVAC Equipment
After you’ve identified the locations of the indoor and outdoor HVAC units, ask the realtor to turn on the air-conditioner. See if it’s cold enough and look for dents, cracks, rust, water stains, and other signs of damage on the equipment. Also, listen for sounds such as hissing or clanging that may indicate problems.
If the HVAC unit is older than 10 or 15 years, it’ll soon need to be replaced. Depending on the size of the home, installing a new air-conditioner may cost thousands of dollars. If you need to replace the system, you should try to negotiate to bring down the home’s selling price, which will help cover the installation cost. However, you shouldn’t ask the current owner to replace it because it’ll void the manufacturer’s warranty.
Also, find out if the HVAC system in the house is energy efficient. Check the SEER, AFUE, and HSPF ratings of the unit. If these numbers are high, you can expect to save substantially on your energy costs.
Examine the Maintenance Records
If possible, you should ask the homeowner to provide the maintenance records for the HVAC system. They should be able to do so if they’ve been keeping up with their maintenance schedules. Annual preventative maintenance not only improves the performance, efficiency, and longevity of the equipment; it’s also a requirement for maintaining the manufacturer’s warranty. If the air conditioner hasn’t been properly maintained, you’ll probably have to deal with more frequent malfunctions and shell out more for repairs after you move in.
Look at the Warranty
Another thing you need to consider is the warranty on the HVAC system. The standard warranty for air-conditioners is five years from the date of installation. Find out the year the unit was installed and you can calculate how many years are left on the warranty. It’s important to dig deeper if the air-conditioner comes with a contractor’s warranty. Checking the warranty can give you an idea of your future repair costs.
Inspect the Ductwork
Besides checking the HVAC equipment, you should also inspect the ductwork to see if it’s in good condition. Look for gaps, loose connections, and signs of condensation, which are indications that the ductwork needs to be repaired. If the ducts look dirty and dusty, it means the homeowner hasn’t been maintaining their system on a regular basis. This suggests that the condition of the HVAC unit itself may be questionable, and you may have to replace it after purchasing the home.
If the house has an indoor air quality device such as an air purifier or dehumidifier, it’s a nice bonus. However, you should know that a humidifier can increase moisture levels in the home, which can promote mold growth. So, make sure you check the unit for water leaks and look around the house for mold. If the air conditioner doesn’t come with a built-in indoor air quality device and the air quality in the home is poor, you have to be prepared to spend money on duct cleaning or indoor air quality add-ons. Again, take all potential costs into consideration and ask for a discount on the price of the house.
Ask About Insulation
It’s also important to ask questions about the insulation in your new home. Find out what type of insulation is installed in the house and when it was last added. Insulation can settle and become less effective over time. If the homeowner hasn’t added new insulation for a long time, the home is likely to develop drafts or leaks. Drafty rooms make it harder for the HVAC system to cool the house evenly, resulting in higher energy bills.
Check the Refrigerant
Many old HVAC systems use a type of refrigerant called R-22. This type of refrigerant has been banned by the Environmental Protection Agency because of its harmful effects on the environment. If the air-conditioner in your new home uses R-22, you may have to pay more to replace the refrigerant because supplies are becoming increasingly limited. By 2020, it’ll be illegal to produce this type of refrigerant.
If the HVAC unit in the house uses R-22 refrigerant, you’ll eventually have to replace the system, which may be costly. Take this cost into account before agreeing to the homeowner’s asking price.
Ask About the Utility Bills
Since heating and cooling account for about half of the energy costs in the average home, you can get a good estimate of the monthly cost of using the HVAC system by looking at the homeowner’s recent utility bills. Bear in mind that the average monthly utility cost in American homes is around $240. If the energy bills for the house are markedly above the average costs in that area, it’s likely that the air-conditioner is inefficient. This can be the result of a variety of problems, from poor maintenance to leaky ductwork. In this situation, it’s a good idea to arrange a professional HVAC inspection to identify the efficiency issues.
If you’re truly interested in buying a certain home, you should hire an HVAC company to perform a thorough inspection of the air-conditioner and the conditions in the home. Although you have to pay for the inspection, you can prevent the risk of having to deal with costly HVAC problems after purchasing the home. It’s important that you don’t trust the home seller or the realtor’s HVAC company.
HVAC Considerations When Buying a Newly Constructed Home
If you’re buying a newly constructed home, you need to know how to choose the most suitable HVAC system. Having an air-conditioner of the correct type and size will make your house more comfortable and help you keep your energy bills low. If you’re buying a home from a mass commercial building company, you shouldn’t base your buying decision on the builder’s HVAC recommendations. It’s wiser to seek advice from a reputable HVAC company. Here are some of the things you need to do to select the perfect HVAC unit for your new home:
Get a Certified Technician to Perform a Load Calculation
When you’re buying a new HVAC system, one of the most important factors to consider is the size of your home. Installing an incorrectly sized unit can lead to a variety of problems. A system that’s too small will struggle to cool the entire house, experiencing additional strain that can result in mechanical issues and high utility bills. An overly large system, on the other hand, tends to start up and shut down more frequently because it’ll reach its programmed temperature too quickly. This can lead to increased wear and tear.
To determine the right HVAC size for your new home, you have to hire an HVAC professional to perform a load calculation. This is a complicated process that involves more than just taking the square footage of your house into account. The technician will also consider the number of levels, number and sizes of rooms, number and types of windows, and insulation in the home, as well as general climate and orientation to the sun.
Choose the Right Type HVAC System
There are two main types of HVAC systems: central and ductless. If you opt for a central air-conditioner, you’ll have to install air ducts throughout your home. The conditioned air produced by the system will travel through the ducts and enter your living space through air vents. A ductless system, on the other hand, consists of an outdoor condenser unit and individual air handlers that are attached to the walls inside the house. Cool air will exit through the air handlers and enter the rooms where they’re installed.
A central HVAC system tends to run more quietly and produce cleaner air. It’s also more effective in circulating conditioned air throughout your home. The main advantage of using a ductless system is that it enables you to cool each room in your house on an individual basis. Known as zoning, this type of operation improves comfort levels and helps prevent energy waste by allowing you to keep unoccupied rooms at a moderate temperature.
In addition, you should consider your filtration needs and preferences when choosing an HVAC system for your new home. Having an air-conditioner with proper filtration capabilities can minimize airborne dust, pollen, pet dander, and other contaminants in your home, resulting in a healthy living environment for your family. This is especially important if you have pets or someone who suffers from allergies or asthma living in your house.
Different HVAC units may have different filtration capabilities. You can ask the HVAC professional to help you determine whether a certain air-conditioner has adequate filtration capabilities to maintain good air quality in your home. You may want to consider installing a system that comes with a built-in air purifier. Some units can be upgraded to include an air-purifying system after they’re installed, which is a great way to improve your indoor air quality.
Consider Energy Efficiency
Highly energy-efficient HVAC systems generally cost more upfront, but they’re definitely worth the extra money. Due to the significant savings it provides, a high-SEER air-conditioner can pay for itself in just a few years. The best thing to do is to get an HVAC unit with the Energy Star label. According to Energy Star, this type of system can help you reduce your heating and cooling costs by up to 20%.
Regardless of whether you’re buying a new home that has or doesn’t have an HVAC system, you should hire a reputable air-conditioning contractor to perform a thorough home evaluation. The process of determining the effectiveness or suitability of an air-conditioning system may involve many considerations and calculations, which cannot be accurately done by an untrained person. The Cooling Company has helped numerous home buyers in Las Vegas create comfortable and energy-efficient homes, and we can do the same for you. If you want to schedule a home-evaluation visit, feel free to contact us at (702) 790-8277.