**To answer your question, yes – and here's why. When you purchase a home, you have a home inspector come out and thoroughly go through everything and give you a report on the home's structure, the appliances, the windows, etc. But one thing a home inspector will not do is a thorough analysis of how well the heating and cooling system works. They will make sure it's set correctly and blows cold and warm air. If it doesn't, they note it on the report.
What they don't do on a home inspection is go through a comprehensive list of items within the heating side and the cooling side of the system. That's where a licensed HVAC contractor comes in. Fox Family technicians will give you an honest assessment of the system and give you options for getting the system back up to the manufacturer's specifications. Maybe a capacitor is low. Perhaps the suction line needs some insulation. Maybe the inducer motor is drawing higher than normal amps.
These and many more intricate details of the system should be brought to your attention before you sell or buy a home. Repairs and inadequacies can be remedied before contracts are signed. We perform just as many inspections for home buyers as we do home sellers.
Some of the things we've experienced with HVAC inspections that are pretty shady are:
Sellers wanting us to "just say everything is okay with it."
Everyone wants the sale of their home to go smoothly. Sell it for the right price, make sure the home is clean for potential buyers, find a great realtor, and make repairs to any existing appliances or structures around the house. For some people, they just don't want those repairs to be too much. Some people have literally asked if we "can just pass it" so they can sell the home easier. That's a tough position for us to be put in, especially when we are just trying to be honest and do the right thing.
Some buyers want us to condemn a furnace so they can include that in their negotiation.
Nobody would buy a used car without checking under the hood first, right? Sometimes, anxious buyers want to make up issues with it to get a lower price on the car. We get that request from the occasional homebuyer or realtor. We want to find everything that is not up to par on the system. That's what we are getting paid to do, get a second set of eyes to go over the system. We just want to be fair to everyone about it.
The refrigerant rouse
When we are out at a customer's home, we might find that their system is not working because they are low on refrigerant. Usually, when systems are low on refrigerant, it's because there is a leak. The leak could be a slow one or major. If it's a slow one, we've had customers who don't want to spend money finding and repairing the leak because they are getting ready to sell the home. So they'll have us refill the system to get them cooling for the rest of the summer, and the summer after you've moved in, you notice you're low on refrigerant.
That's a tough one because HVAC contractors are technically not REQUIRED to find leaks on systems that contain less than 50 lbs of refrigerant (EPA 608). They are allowed to and feel obligated to refill systems as many times as the homeowner wants, year after year, without finding the leak.
HVAC inspections only come with a visual check for refrigerant leaks. Usually, if the pressures are good and the temperature split is good, there's no signal for a technician to move forward with a more intensive search. Those leak searches come with a price. In 2021 we charged around $750. That's because of the time required to find the leak. We insert dye into the system and come back in a few weeks after the refrigerant has cycled through the system many times. The dye leaks out of the hole and shows up under a UV light.
A dangerous trick –
On a gas furnace, the most essential thing to have inspected is the heat exchanger. The home inspector might note that the system is heating properly. Still, they don't actually look inside the system to verify there are no cracks in the heat exchanger that can mix carbon monoxide in with the air being supplied into the house's rooms. That takes an experienced eye and additional training to find them on all of the various models out there.
We have found cracks and noted them on the invoice left with the customer. As soon as we see it, we recommend immediate replacement of the part. If they are available, they can be replaced. It's usually about a $2000 repair, though, and unbeknownst to the technician, the homeowner sells the home with the cracked heat exchanger. Shady for the seller, dangerous for the buyer.
HVAC inspections are just as crucial as home inspections are. Home inspectors are excellent and very thorough with their process. But, no one can go through your HVAC system with a fine-tooth comb like a certified technician. The HVAC system is one of the most expensive components attached to your home. So, make sure it's running in tip-top shape before your sell it, or buy a new one.