We all know that we can’t survive in south Florida without an effective air conditioner, so what should you or your home inspector look for when buying a house?
1. First off, you want to make sure that it is cooling effectively and this can be done by measuring the difference in temperature between the air going into the air conditioner (the return) and the air coming out (supply). A 15-20 degree difference is generally considered normal. An infra-red thermometer is very helpful for doing this.
2. Secondly, you want to know how old the unit is. In Florida the life expectancy of an air conditioner is generally considered to be 10-17 years (less if you live close to the beach). Of course, they can run much longer but they will be less efficient and probably cost you more in repairs. Sometimes the year of manufacture is on the data plate or you may be able to work it out from the serial number (usually in the first 2 to 4 digits).
3. So it’s cooling effectively and is less than 10 years old but how well has it been looked after? Sometimes a service history is stuck to the air handler, otherwise take a look at the air filter and coils. Hopefully the coils are relatively clean and not clogged up.
4. Take a look at the coils. Are they clean or are they blocked or worse – have mold growing on them?
5. Does it have a float switch installed? This is designed to turn off the unit if the drain pipe becomes clogged – a common problem which can lead to a small flood!
So should you buy a house with an old or poorly working air conditioner? That is a decision for the buyer to make but the good news is, new air conditioners are far more efficient than they used to be. The savings in electric bills may pay for the cost of the air conditioner within 2 or 3 years.