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The New Homeowner’s Guide to HVAC

Congratulations! You signed on the dotted line and officially have a house in your name. Or maybe you’re looking to buy, but haven’t found the perfect match yet. While you may be thinking about the backsplash and new appliances, it shouldn’t stop there. With a new home comes new responsibilities, including your HVAC system.If you’ve always lived in an apartment or had a landlord, you should get ready for a steep learning curve. Don’t worry, MTB has been around for more than 40 years and we’re here to help. Put on your investigative journalist hat, because you’re on a fact-finding mission.
Here’s Your New Homeowner Checklist:
Find out the age of your HVAC system.
This is a biggie. Ideally, you should know this before you buy your new home, so you can budget accordingly. HVAC systems aren’t like a fine wine — they have a time clock. On average, the lifespan of a furnace and compressor is between 12 and 18 years. So if yours is over the 10-year mark, you should consider the potential repairs and cost of replacement in the coming years.
What type of unit is it?
Heating units come in a variety of shapes and sizes that can run on electricity, natural gas or oil. The home’s seller or the utility company can give you overall averages for the house and tell you about additional add-ons the home may be using, such as a humidifier or purification system. Here are different types of heating systems you might encounter:
Heat Pumps
Heat pumps operate using heat transfer, but unlike some other HVAC systems, they don’t burn fuel. Instead, they move heat from Point A to Point B, from a hot spot to a cold spot.
A gas furnace has numerous parts, including a burner, heat exchanger, ductwork, and a flue or vent. Note that this unit doesn’t only run on gas, it also uses electricity. Furnaces are reliable, because they can last up to 25 years. So if you’re putting down roots, this could be a good option. If you have a furnace, don’t forget to change the filter and have an HVAC professional check the unit every winter.
Mini-Split Systems
Mini-split systems are a newer technology and connect to your indoor and outdoor units. They transfer heat via a conductor and can be extremely convenient, sometimes operated with a wireless remote. Mini-split systems also don’t require ducts, which can be a major plus, especially for maintenance.
Geothermal Heat Pumps
Geothermal may seem like the new kid on the block, but it has been around for a while. This system delivers heating, cooling and hot water by gathering heat from the earth’s constant temperature. Geothermal heat pumps are extremely energy-efficient, cut down on carbon emissions and cut back on electric grid usage. They also tend to have a longer lifespan (~25 years).
Figure out if your unit has a warranty.
Don’t wait until four years down the road when something goes wrong. Find out whether the existing warranty is transferable, and if the previous homeowners did anything that would potentially void the terms of the agreement. Again, this is something you would ideally do before closing the deal. Contact your system’s manufacturer with the serial and model numbers, in order to determine the dates and details of the warranty.
Know the ratings of your heating and cooling units.
New code requirements are continuously changing to provide for more energy efficient equipment, which is good news for everyone in the long run. Remember, the higher the energy efficiency rating, the better. This can save you serious money on your utility bills. For your air conditioner, find its SEER rating (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio). For your furnace, find its AFUE rating (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency).
Find out when the unit was last inspected.
You wouldn’t buy a used car without learning about its maintenance history, would you? Hopefully your answer is no. You should think about your new home’s HVAC system the same way, and obtain its repair and maintenance reports. HVAC systems that receive regular preventative maintenance are 80 percent less likely to break down and can operate up to 30 percent more efficiently. If the HVAC system has been ignored, it could lead to more problems for you.
Learn the ductwork situation.
Your home’s ductwork should not be ignored. In addition to getting reports on your HVAC system, you should also get the latest inspection reports on your ductwork. If there is debris buildup, dust, dirt or organic growth, you could be in for some expensive repairs, not to mention potential health concerns.
Acquire a copy of the home inspection.
While it’s important to know the results of a home inspection, remember that the information has a shelf life. The condition of an HVAC system is only current up to the time of inspection. We recommend getting a more up-to-date opinion. Call an MTB expert to do a thorough evaluation and alert you of any potential issues.
Good luck on your new homeowner journey. If you have additional questions, schedule an appointment with one of our experts today.

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