AC condenser undersized - HI said nothing - to blame?

I always list the size of the AC unit in the reports. If there is an addtion, depending on size I might suggest that they get a Manual J calculation if the system is not cooling properly.

She asks me what I think as she advised her family member to get 3 estimates, notify the HI of the oversight and “discuss”. From what I gathered of the conversation, it sounded like estimates were obtained and this was headed to small claims. This is in an area that is regularly getting in the high 90’s on a daily basis and the upper floor is not cooling below the low 80’s.

If this unit was only cooling in the low 80’s on the upper floor, dont you think that it should have been mentioned in the original report? I think that would fall under negligence if it was not. That would have everything to do with the SOP and nothing to do with sizing. Report it as not functioning properly and let the AC contractor tell her it is too small.

Where here does it say anything about any of that?

I do not. Just the serial number and if the system is working or not. Or tested or not depending on the season.

A. the central cooling equipment using normal operating controls.

If it is not working properly under nomal operation conditions, should it not be reported. I doesnt take a rocket scientist to figure out that if it is not cooling lower than 80 degrees that there is a problem. It is not operating as intended. That problem should be reported. Isnt that our job as a home inspector?

So since we don’t actually know the specifics of the original post the question becomes, would you have called out what appears to be a grossly undersized unit. Would you call out a 70 amp main panel on a 3200 sf. ft. house. How about a 1/2 inch water line, a 2 inch drain line. If you report the size of the unit you have to think somewhere an alarm would go off. Maybe it just supplied the first floor or just the bedrooms.

For the guys that like to put the size on their reports, how many of you have ever noticed that sometimes the data tag on the side of the unit says one thing, say 30,000 btu while the actual compressor is something different. How many even know how to read the data off the compressor? I can’t count the number of times I have found this to be the case. Something to think about while you decide what to do about exceeding the SOP into areas you may not be qualified or trained in.

I do not list size of the units… My report, contract, and SOP make it quite clear I do not offer any Engineering nor determine the size, design, and or Adequacy of any HVAC Systems.

I write whatever I want my clients to remember in the report, when push comes to shove it is always amusing how good someones memory is.

Now that being said, I believe the HI has lost as he is going to have to take time to defend this…


You of all should know first hand…

My Disclaimer

. (No inspection done for compatability or adequacy of HVAC systems or previous repairs)
. Furnaces and A/C units can and do go out without warning, especially older units. As a
. homebuyer, you should be proactive and upgrade any units older than 10 to 12 years old or
. units with bent/damaged/loose fitting panels. Regardless of the decision to upgrade, have the
. furnace(s) cleaned, serviced and adjusted for peak operation prior to closing and then annually
. prior to the first use. As this is only a limited visual inspection of these systems, any furnace
. or A/C unit 10 to 12 years old or older should be thoroughly evaluated by a knowledgeable,
. qualified and licensed HVAC contractor prior to closing. Having your heating and cooling
. system serviced each year before the first use will ensure that the system is safe and operating
. as intended. Failure to have a yearly check up can lead to expensive repairs or replacement do
. to malfunctioning equipment. Malfunctioning heating systems can also be dangerous. You can
. find a list of qualified HVAC contractors by looking in your phone book. It is an inconvenient truth
. that inspectors are generally incapable of functionally verifying some major mechanical components
. in modern housing. Examples include heat pumps, variable-speed cooling equipment, multi-staged
. heating systems, modulated gas controls and variable air volume air distribution. This inspection
. should be considered a very general visual inspection and not considered exhaustive.

. Warning: This inspection will not likely meet the underwriting requirements of a home
. warranty (residential service contract) company. Many of these companies have been known to
. deny coverage due to subjective and often questionable code compliance and maintenance
. arguments. My advice to you is to call the Home Warranty company you will be using and ask
. for the HVAC company that they use in your area. Have your system further evaluated by this
. company to insure it meets the underwriting guidelines of the Home Warranty Company.
. Failure to do so may result in your company denying future claims.

. Note: The heat exchanger was not inspected during this inspection. This cannot be properly
. done without dismantling the furnace to remove the heat exchanger for viewing. This is beyond
. the scope of this inspection. This company does not inspect for carbon monoxide poisoning.
ALWAYS RECOMMEND FURTHER EVALUATION BY AN HVAC EXPERT…** EVEN IF THE SYSTEM WORKS FINE ON THE DAY OF THE INSPECTION (it is important to manage your clients expectations and that they realize your HVAC inspection is VERY limited).

I. The inspector shall inspect:

A. the central cooling equipment using normal operating controls.

Then what are we supposed to do with any information we gather when we DO “inspect”, i.e., “run” the system?

Why even run the darn thing then if we don’t report on any noted deficiencies, and believe me, not cooling properly could be deemed an deficiency, ya think?

What is proper cooling?

When you turn on a light at a light switch and it doesn’t come on:

Do you run to town and get a new lightbulb?

Do you get a voltage meter and test the circuit?

Do you determine if it’s a two way switch on a three-way circuit?

Do you dismantle the lighting fixture to see if there are burnt wires or bad connections or if the lightbulb was loose?

Do you dismantle the switch and do an Ohm’s test on the device?

If the light does come on:

Do you determine the wattage draw through the circuit in comparison to the lightbulb in the socket?

Do you do a voltage drop test.

Do you check the luminaires and manufacturers data sheet for the lightbulb?

We run the darn thing to see if things turn on…

The extent of our testing is to feel the air and see if it is warmer or cooler than the ambient temperature within the house.

This example may seem far-fetched but it is exactly what a real HVAC analysis does and it is something that home inspectors do not do.

I would think the example cited above where the upper story was not cooling would be a good example of **improper **cooling.

Maybe I misunderstood your intent, but it seemed you were disagreeing with Bill Siegel’s post about a HI being negligent for not reporting that.

One of the greatest post I’ve ever read here at NACHI.

I’m sorry but I can not understand this cover your xxx at the expense of our clients best interests mentality. If you are a certified inspector or master inspector you should know the minimum system requirements for all the systems of a home. SOP’s are weak, the buyer does not need us to come in and just turn stuff on and say it functions, I’m done, pay me. The original post is in regard to a significantly under sized condenser. No technical expertise is needed, just a basic understanding of what it takes to cool a house of that size. Stop defending sub qualified inspectors. Raise the bar and everyone will be happy (except some agents).

Where exactly in my post does it say cover your but at the expense of your customer. It does say cover your butt but nowhere does it even infer that is to be at the expense of anyone. Reading comprehension and attention to details are acquired skills. Ones that are extremely important for a Home Inspector.

Good Point Mark.

I gave the benefit of the doubt of the sizing when I posted the question/topic. I felt there were more than one reasons to have “punted” this one if I had done the inspection. We can’t all agree.

I thought it was a “bit” undersized as well. This topic of “sizing” is a bit tricky, but IMO the example I laid out… wasn’t. All things aside, if a home appears un-altered, I would agree that being concerned with the size of a system is beyond a HI. There were other aspects of the post…

All the variables of the system aside… the fact the home had alterations/additions, the poor cooling taking place at the time of inspection coupled with the size of the unit would have had me “punt” this one to an HVAC contractor for review.

I think Texas has the right idea. If you look at the nachi (and the other nationally recognized inspector association whose name can not be mentioned) and look at the Texas standards. I would hire the Texas inspector first.

(b) Cooling equipment other than evaporative coolers.
The inspector shall:
(1) report the type of system(s); and
(2) report as Deficient:
(A) inoperative unit(s);
(B) inadequate cooling as demonstrated by its performance in the reasonable judgment of the inspector;
© inadequate access and clearances;
(D) noticeable vibration of the blower fan or condensing fan;
(E) deficiencies in the condensate drain and auxiliary/secondary pan and drain system;
(F) water in the auxiliary/secondary drain pan;
(G) a primary drain pipe that terminates in a sewer vent;
(H) missing or deficient refrigerant pipe insulation;
(I) dirty evaporator or condensing coils, where accessible;
(J) damaged casings on the coils;
(K) a condensing unit lacking adequate clearances or air circulation or that has deficiencies in the condition of fins, location, levelness, or elevation above ground surfaces;
(L) deficiencies in mounting and operation of window or wall units; and
(M) deficiencies in thermostats.

verses Nachi

2.5. Cooling
I. The inspector shall inspect:
[INDENT] A. the central cooling equipment using normal operating controls.
II. The inspector is not required to:
A. determine the uniformity, temperature, flow, balance, distribution, size, capacity, BTU, or supply adequacy of the cooling system.
B. inspect window units, through-wall units, or electronic air filters.
C. operate equipment or systems if exterior temperature is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, or when other circumstances are not conducive to safe operation, or may damage the equipment.
D. inspect or determine thermostat calibration, cooling anticipation, or automatic setbacks or clocks.
E. examine electrical current, coolant fluids or gases, or coolant leakage.

Who would you hire?

(B) inadequate cooling as demonstrated by its performance in the reasonable judgment of the inspector

And how on earth would one determine that on a 70 degree day?

(B) inadequate cooling as demonstrated by its performance in the reasonable judgment of the inspector

Oh no, that is not subjective statement, especially when the inspector doesn’t know s**t from shoe polish of how an HVAC system even works. Most think its black magic or something judging from comments just on this board.