When it comes to assessing the heating and cooling system in your new home, it’s easy to simply switch it on and keep your fingers crossed. However, this can leave you filled with stress and anxiety, wondering if it will act up or give out. Consider these aspects when assessing the condition of your new home’s heating and cooling system.
The actual age of your system can give you a good indication of where you are in its life cycle. Properly maintained furnaces will heat your home for about 15 to 20 years. Heat pumps and air conditioners will offer your home their service for 10 to 15 years. You can get a sense of the reliable life your system has left if you simply know the system’s age.
It’s easy to find the age of air conditioners and heat pumps. Simply look at the nameplate on the back of the housing. The nameplate should have the date it was manufactured.
Furnaces are a little trickier, but still doable when you know the secret. You’ll need to find the serial number; then take the first four digits to get the manufacture date. The first two are the week of the year, and the next two are the year the unit was produced. You’ll find the serial number either on the product label behind the access panel or stamped on the circulating fan motor. If you look for the motor, be sure to turn the power to the furnace off at the breaker to prevent injury.
The system’s service life is significantly impacted by how well it was maintained. That’s why understanding some of its history will help you determine if you can expect it to last the full-service life. If possible, get maintenance records from the previous owner. Ideally, it should have received professional maintenance every spring for the air conditioning and every fall for the heating.
If you don’t have the maintenance history, you can get a sense of whether it was neglected with a little inspection. Take the access panel off and look at whether there is built-up dust or cobwebs on the interior of the unit. If there is a lot of buildup, especially on the circulating fan, your system hasn’t had much maintenance.
Airflow begins restricting when the system has not been properly maintained. The restricted airflow causes additional strain on electrical components. Further, restricted airflow can cause the furnace to overheat, damaging the heat exchanger. All of this wears away at the service life, sometimes significantly.
As your system ages, its ability to consistently control the temperature throughout your home diminishes. This happens because the temperature sensor in the thermostat starts losing its accuracy. It also happens as the circulating fan motor ages and stops circulating the same volume of air.
Next, check the temperature throughout your home. The temperature from one room to another should only vary by a degree or two. Anything more signals your system is struggling.
Finally, check the temperature of the air coming from your vents. When it’s working correctly, the temperature of the air on heat should be 40 to 70 degrees warmer than at the cold air return. The air should be 14 to 20 degrees cooler when you’re running the air conditioning.
While you’re checking temperatures, be sure to check how well your thermostat is working. Use a newer digital thermometer to check the reading on your thermostat. If your thermostat doesn’t have a digital temperature reading, it’s likely past its 10 to 15-year reliable life. Chances are, that means your system may be old.
Double-check the thermostat’s programs as well. If the programs aren’t set, it likely means the previous owner didn’t use them, letting the system run at the same level, even when no one was home. This adds operational strain to the system, using more of its life. If the thermostat doesn’t have programs, this again signifies an older model. It also indicates a system that has run at a lower efficiency.
Having the proper-size system for your home helps ensure you keep your utility costs low and helps reduce operational strain. Both an oversized and an undersized system will increase both of these, but for different reasons.
When you renovate your home, it’s easy to add space to the system’s serviceable area and inadvertently make the current system too small. That’s why it’s important to compare the size of your unit to the home’s actual needs.
Find the serviceable square footage of your home, then convert that into the basic size in BTUs or British Thermal Units. The conversion factor for both heating and air conditioning units in the San Antonio area is 35, so multiply your square footage by this factor. This gives you a general sense of the rated BTUs for your system.
To find your system’s rating, simply look at the unit. On your furnace, take the access panel off and look at the sticker or riveted plate inside. For an air conditioner or heat pump, simply read the label on the condensing unit outside.
Wear and Corrosion
While you’re gathering information from your units, do a visual inspection to look for wear and corrosion. Start by looking for rust on the furnace and the condensing unit’s housing, which may indicate further corrosion inside. At your furnace, look around the base for excess moisture or bits of metal from inside the unit. Both of these indicate possible corrosion.
At the condensing unit outside, see if you can easily see the fins on the condensing coil. Specifically, you want to see if they have bent flat from debris that may have hit it. The more flattened fins there are, the less air will flow through the coil, reducing its ability to transfer heat.
Fastest Method for Assessing Your System
One of the fastest methods for assessing your system is to schedule professional system maintenance. During this maintenance visit, our technicians will inspect a large portion of your system. They will visually inspect the system as they get into it, plus they’ll test the conditioning cycles and the components within the system. This will give them an indication of how well it’s been maintained and if there’s anything operating less than optimally at that time.
Beyond the system inspection, they’ll also give it an efficiency boost by cleaning it. The primary areas of focus are the burner, heat exchanger, circulating fan wheel, and the evaporating and condensing coils. They’ll also take the time to tighten mounting hardware and electrical connections. All of this works to ensure your system is cycling the proper volume of air and doesn’t have any unusual strain.
People around San Antonio have turned to Beyer Air Conditioning & Heating when they want friendly and dependable heating and cooling service. Our team of NATE-certified technicians provide indoor air quality solutions alongside heating and air conditioning maintenance, repair, and installation services. Call to schedule your new home’s HVAC maintenance appointment with one of our expert technicians today.