Video Series – What Would The Inspector Do? – Air Conditioning Problems
The ultimate question many feel to ask their home inspector is WOULD YOU BUY THIS HOME??? How does a good home inspector feel about this question?
Here is an educational video explaining why this can put the inspector in a difficult position because he simply can’t answer that question accurately in most cases. Or the true answer to that question would almost always be, “at the right price, yes”. What is the REAL ultimate question? As explained in the video, the question home inspectors wish they were asked is, “How would YOU go about resolving these issues noted in the report?” Some home inspectors with experience will even answer the question, “what kind of costs might we be talking about?”. Now he can answer relatively accurately and this should give a home buyer a good idea as to whether THEY WOULD BUY THIS HOME. Or in the case of a seller and listing agent realtor, whether they can list the home for the amount they are hoping to sell it for.
So, WHAT WOULD THE HOME INSPECTOR DO, if the home he’s purchasing has two air conditioners that are not cooling properly; one is leaking in the attic causing water damage to the ceiling; the other is leaking cold air also in the attic and has mold growing because of the constant condensation from the air leakage; has major rodent problems that have chewed their way into the duct work, leaving rodent droppings in the ductwork creating a major health concern regarding Indoor Air Quality; and finally, when both systems are old enough that complete replacement is inevitable in the near future? Are you scared now from that long winded description of just the air conditioning in this home? Would you run away from buying this home? Not the home inspector. You see, he knows he has secured a contract on the property for a fair price. He has done calculations that confirm that he can rent the property and make a small monthly income after the cost of the mortgage, property taxes, home owners insurance, and monthly maintenance including the cost over time for replacing the air conditioning, roof, plumbing, and electrical. So in this case the real question is… What would the inspector do to fix the air conditioning? In a perfect world, what would be the ideal system to install? What would be the installation methods? What kind of contractor would he use?
Out with the old, in with the new
The old in this case is a ducted central air conditioning split system with an electric heat element installed at the air handler. This is the typical installation in the South Florida area where I live; and I must say, it is quite a terrible option. The electric heat elements are rarely used as cold weather is quite rare in South Florida. So what inevitably happens is dust builds up on the heating coil over time, and when we finally get that cold year where the temperature drops to the 30s over night and it remains in the 50s during the day, one goes to turn on their heating and what do they find but a disgusting smell of the burn off from all that dust on the coils. In some cases this sets off the smoke alarms in the house; in rare cases it can even catch fire!
So why don’t the local HVAC companies simply install the heating designed for warm climates? What a novel idea! This heating system is called a Heat Pump. These are glorified air conditioners that simply have a reversing valve that runs the system “backwards”. In other words, it pulls heat from the air outside and blows it into the interior of the home or office. Thus, there is no burn off, no intense heat from a furnace heat element, and it ALWAYS works as long as the air conditioning is working. I tend to note that heat pumps last longer than traditional AC systems as well. I’m not sure why this tends to be the case in my experience… Maybe higher quality parts are used due to it being a higher end product… That last sentence is ONLY based on my experience and may not be true :/.
Secondly the NEW technology that should be setting the world on fire are systems called “ductless mini-splits“. these systems often have over 20 variable speeds, meaning they cost pennies on the dollar to operate. Why ductless? Well, there is a lot of conditioned air loss in ducting systems. Codes are constantly being added to try and mitigate this problem. This can also create condensation problems, leakage problems, mold problems. With a network of ducts running throughout the home structure, there is also the chance of the ducting becoming contaminated by rodents, particulates being pulled in through gaps in the ducts, mold growth, and on and on. For years my home inspection reports have been filled with these types of issues. With a ductless system, an AC evaporator coil is installed in every major room of the structure blowing conditioned air directly into that space rather than carrying it through ducts – SO MUCH MORE EFFICIENT AND CLEANER!
Added to all this energy saving, efficiency, and cleaner air already noted; some of these systems are also build to be medical rated air purifying units! This is just incredible! My pick is the Mitsubishi Ductless mini split heat pump. This is the Mercedes of HVAC systems. Click here for information on this system. These system can come with a platinum filter that works as an air purifier and deodorizer. Click here to read more about these filters.
And finally. These units at the inside of the home can usually be installed at the interior of an exterior wall in each room. What this means to a home inspector is NO LEAKING, EVERY! Yes the refrigerant lines and condensation drain line are piped directly through the exterior wall, so there is little to no chance that leakage can happen at the interior. If a leak occurs, it will be outside the exterior wall.
What I Did
Here is what I did; I installed a premium quality Mitsubishi ductless mini split system throughout the home. 3 Condensers and 4 indoor “Heads”. I had UV lights installed inside the heads so that mold would never grow inside the air supply grille. I had the condensers mounted on the wall so that if flooding ever occurred, they units could still operate. If you live close to the ocean, you can have the condenser units powder coated which ill prevent corrosion and premature failure due to the salt in the air. So here you have it. What The Inspector Would Do from Michael Gaurnier, ACI.