Buying a new home can have many benefits, including brand-new HVAC equipment. However, many homebuyers purchase existing homes. Buying a previously lived-in home also means dealing with decisions the previous owners made, and this can sometimes mean working with HVAC equipment that may be old, poorly maintained, or inadequate.
Once you've moved in and spent time in the house, you'll want to look more closely at your HVAC equipment. These three questions will help you evaluate your new home's AC system and decide if it requires upgrades, repairs, or replacement.
1. Can It Keep Up With Your Cooling Needs?
This question can seem simple on its surface, but it's more complex than you might realize. Most air conditioners are relatively straightforward single-stage systems. This design means that they only provide one level of cooling. The system runs at full power until it meets your thermostat's set point and shuts off until the temperature exceeds its target.
These on-and-off periods are known as cycles, and a typical system shouldn't run in excessively long or short cycles. If your air conditioner runs too briefly, the compressor can suffer damage from the constant start and stop cycles. Short-cycling air conditioners are also less effective at removing humidity. On the other hand, a system that runs for excessively long periods will also wear more quickly.
Short cycling is easy to spot since it will involve your system cycling on and off more often than every ten minutes. Long cycling can be more challenging to recognize. If your new home's system runs more than half the time without reaching your set point, you may need an HVAC contractor to look for issues or determine if your air conditioner might be undersized for your needs.
2. Can You Find Evidence of Previous Maintenance?
Maintaining an air conditioning system is one of the most important things you can do to extend its life and minimize your repair costs. Maintenance includes some relatively simple tasks, including replacing the air filter regularly and more complex annual work. Familiarize yourself with the location of your air filter so you can check and replace it as necessary.
When investigating the previous owner's maintenance habits, the air filter is often a good place to start. The previous owners may have deferred other maintenance if the air filter looks extremely dirty or worn out. You can also look for a sticker or plate on the indoor air handler unit or outdoor condenser with the last service date.
If the previous service date is several years old or you can't find evidence of prior service, consider scheduling a maintenance visit as soon as possible. An HVAC technician can perform an in-depth evaluation of your system's condition, make recommendations to fix any existing problems, and catch you up on routine maintenance. An annual service plan will help ensure you don't fall behind again.
3. Are You Happy With Its Operating Costs?
A central air conditioning system can last 20 years or even longer when well-maintained. As a result, many older homes may have systems operating well below current energy efficiency standards. SEER (seasonal energy efficiency ratio) ratings measure air conditioner efficiency, with higher ratings offering more efficient cooling and lower operating costs.
You can find your current system's SEER rating on a plate by the condenser unit or by looking up its model number. Standards vary by region, but current requirements as of 2023 require a minimum of 14 SEER, with southern parts of the country requiring 15 SEER systems. If your system is much lower than current standards, you can likely benefit greatly from a more modern upgrade.
Note that standards only define the minimum SEER necessary for new installations. You can potentially see even larger benefits by installing a higher-efficiency system. These air conditioners can offer greater power savings while providing improved comfort features such as variable-speed compressors.
Valderrama A/C & Refrigeration can help whether you're considering an upgrade or just want to get off on the right foot maintaining your new home's air conditioning system. Call us today to schedule a routine service visit or explore energy-saving system upgrade options.