what to report on old hvac equipment

I have read everything on here about what to report on old HVAC equipment but its all scattered around without much agreement on the subject so here is a new thread for this very important subject with information that many do not take into consideration. This thread is not for inspectors who cater to realtors.

Since roofs usually die a slow death where most reasonable people can spot a bad one easily, they are not so hard to deal with, but HVAC is a problem, when it quits in cold or hot weather its a real immediate problem for the occupants and this can even affect their judgement and temperment.

Forget estimated life span. average life span, service life etc. we are in business to issue our opinion as we see fit. You can use that data as a reference but nothing says you have to include it in the report when you recommend replacement.

How many of you go ahead and recommend a new HVAC system when the unit is older than about 17 years and is operating on the day of the inspection?

What about the homes with a newer heat pump airhandler and a 20 year old exterior heat pump unit? Do you inform your clients that when the exterior unit is replaced the inside half also has to be replaced due to different oils and refrigerant/design issues at a cost of 4k+?

Forget the purchase contract language such as “is it functioning as intended” etc. that only relates to how the reported issues are negotiated and is really none of our business. Our business is to inform the client of the property conditions and make good recommendations.

Actually, if something was designed to last about 17 years and is older than that, IT IS NOT functioning as intended.

Fact: Many homeowners have HVAC systems replaced when they are still operating so a recommendation to do the same is not something that is in anyway wrong.

fire away :mrgreen:

Note the type and age of the HVAC equipment and recommend accordingly based upon your inspection of the system components.

That’s funny, Bruce. Do we know the names of the iNACHI members who “cater to realtors [sic].” We could create a list and then give it to Chris and have him ban them from this thread.

This is in my contracts:

This then goes into all my reports:

Hi Bruce.

Fired :wink:



I would say that the physical appearance it a good gauge. If it is rusted, deteriorated, leak signs, mold growing on it, panels don’t fit, filthy dirty coils, etc. it is quite obvious that no one cared for the equipment in the past. Regardless of the unit age, this condition is an indicator that it won’t last much longer.

If it is old, but looks like it has been cared for, it may last a long time. Service contract papers are commonly found. These units are few and far between to find though!

There is an electrical test that can be done using a megometer on the compressor electrical terminals. This tests the compressor motor wiring insulation and can detect moisture and other contaminates in the refrigerant oil (which the motor is “sitting in”.

There are oil acid tests available also.

You mentioned mismatched equipment; this is a no-go from the start. It lowers equipment efficiency and voids all equipment warranty.

No, I don’t think so. I worked for a high end HVAC service company (with clients that spend a lot on maintenance) and found very old and outdated performing better than the new equipment counterpart. Actually I had to go answer why the newly installed high efficiency equipment was not performing like the old stuff on numerous occasions. Hi efficiency does not mean it works as good!

What is a high efficiency unit?
Well, with the low end equipment it is basically a 3 ton condenser with a 2.5 ton compressor! Don’t get me wrong, you are replacing the same sized unit, just that your 3 ton is replaced with a 3t compressor in a 4 ton condenser.

One of the hardest working units from the past was the GE/Trane, climatuff compressor with a brush coil rather than a fin coil. The effective surface area of this coil was huge compared to a finned coil. There are GE’s still in service today! Trane bought out GE many years ago.

I agree with you there! No doubt.

You can bet that a clients attorney will love the fact that a home had an old worn out hvac and the inspector did not make the client aware of the condition and consequences therein after the immenient failure occurs.

The only way to cover yourself 100% is to recommend it be replaced or at least report to this effect: When it quits, most hvac techs will recommend replacement.

When I come upon older heating units, I note the following…

The heating system was paced through it’s normal sequence of operating modes, with no obvious defects noted at the time of inspection. However, due to systems age, it is clearly beyond it’s life expectancy, and replacement should be considered. Until then, I recommend service and maintenance from a licensed heating contractor now and annually.

Thats pretty good but still, when it quits, here is what the homeowner might hear from the hvac tech if he cant fix it with a capacitor or relay:

“This thing was shot 2 years ago, you mean you just had this place inspected?”