The Heating System is an important part of your home inspection. Your Heating System should be capable of providing enough heat on the coldest winter day, is quick to respond and will provide safe and ample heat distribution throughout the entire home.
There are several types of heating systems out today and there are pros and cons to each one. Unfortunately, there are virtually no heating systems than can perform flawlessly. In order to ensure that the heating system lasts as long as possible, proper and ongoing maintenance is key. When I look at heating systems during my home inspection, I cover the visible components of the heating appliance which could be a furnace or a boiler for example. I look at the distribution ductwork, or pipes, flues and exhaust systems, thermostats, filters, registers/radiators, airflow, and fireplaces. For the purposes of this article, I will only focus on the most common systems found in residential homes.
Some of the newer heating systems out there are more expensive to install, but will give you better return on your investment later on. Many newer furnaces may only have an expected life of 10 years due to cheaper products used in manufacturing.
Newer homes are required to have a carbon monoxide detector installed in your home for any type of combustion appliance. We also look at thermostats. I always recommend replacing the older Bimetallic type with a new programmable one which are more energy efficient. There are other clues that we look for, but as a quick reference these are basics we cover.
Furnaces – When we inspect the furnace, we look for a number of different clues to determine it’s condition.
Some of the most common problems found during a home inspection are:
-Older, outdated furnaces
-Dirty filters and/or wrong size
-Lack of or poor maintenance
-Soot/debris build up
-Dirty/dusty components under the removable covers
-Asbestos tape on older duct work / improper tape on ducts or plenums
-Damaged/disconnected or holes in the duct work
-Fan not working, or going on and off
-Rust in and around the furnace & duct work
-Exhaust too close to combustible materials
One of the most serious concerns is the smell of a strong gas odor. This could indicate a gas leak. If you experience this, do not operate any electrical devices. Leave the home and use a cell to call the gas company immediately from outside your home so they can direct you further.
Boilers – Boilers are fairly complicated systems to check, because there are so many components involved. If you have a boiler and the heat is not working, I would highly recommend calling a plumber or boiler specialist unless you have the training to trouble shoot the boiler and it’s components. Subsequently, this goes for furnaces as well.
Boilers use water to distribute heat via pipes to either the in-floor system, radiators or water baseboard heat.
The most most common issues that I see with boilers include:
-Improper piping materials
-Expansion tank problems
-Defective zones valves
-Water pressure too high
Electric Heaters – Electric baseboard heat does not have a distribution system because they only heat the room they are in, so inspecting these systems is not as complicated as a furnace o boiler. Typically the heat is working or it is not. The nice thing about electric baseboard heat is that you can warm up a room very quickly. However, many heaters will give off a burning smell.
Some of the problems we find with electric baseboard heat include:
-Dirty, damaged or bent fins on the heater
-Obstructed heaters, usually curtains & dressers
-Missing, damaged or loose covers
-Electrical cords on the heaters
-Poor placement of the heater in a room
-Outlets installed directly above the heater
A poorly maintained heating appliances may account for re-negotiations after a home inspection because they can be expensive to fix, and most people do not want to inherit the cost of a failing outdated heating appliance.
For further information on inspecting heating systems, just call The Angus Home Inspector at 705-795-8255, and I will be happy to assist you.