Furnace Issues Found During an Inspection

Furnace and Air Conditioner  Issues we find During the Home Inspection 

your furnace is a major appliance and requires regular service
furnace maintenance is much cheaper than replacement

AC and Furnace Issues  Are All Too Common

One of the key systems our inspectors check during the home inspection is the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning system, or HVAC. In the Midwest, most homes are equipped with a forced air heating system fueled by natural gas, propane, or electricity. Though not as common, radiant heating systems, geo-thermal systems, and wood furnaces are also found in this area. The majority of homes in Missouri and Illinois also have central air conditioning.

The home inspection will include a detailed examination of this equipment. The inspector will look at both the installation of the system components and any notable wear. The inspector will use a variety of tools, like digital thermometers and infrared cameras to examine the system, then note simple maintenance items and any potentially serious issues uncovered.

We’ve compiled a list of the most common problems home inspectors encounter when checking the HVAC system in an effort to help you know what to look for before you buy or sell a home.

Here are eight common issues we find in homes with forced air heating systems and central air conditioners:

  1. Dirty Air Filters. It’s one of the simplest and least expensive home maintenance issues to correct, and it’s often the most neglected. A clogged or dirty air filter can seriously hamper the ability of your furnace or air conditioner to heat or cool your home. If the air can’t flow freely through the HVAC system, conditioned air doesn’t circulate into your home efficiently. This can cause the furnace to short cycle. The result may have chilly homeowners turning up the heat in an attempt to keep their homes comfortable in winter or keep the air conditioner unit running non-stop in summer. This puts unnecessary strain on the furnace and AC units and can really skyrocket utility bills. The lifespan of a furnace filter varies depending on filter type and the indoor air quality. Since the filter captures dust particles, pet dander, smoke, pollen, and other indoor air pollutants, factors like having pets and smoking indoors can shorten the filter’s service life. Most disposable filter manufacturers recommend changing them after one to three months.
  1. Duct Work Issues:  The ducts are the conduits that channel the conditioned air from your furnace, heat pump, or air conditioner into the rooms of your home. If the duct or register it leads to is installed improperly or becomes damaged, it can seriously impact your HVAC system’s efficiency. Cracked duct work and broken connections can leak heated or cooled air into the spaces inside your walls, or into unused attics and crawl spaces, making it harder for your system to deliver the right comfort level to interior rooms. And when your furnace or air conditioner has to work harder to keep your rooms comfortable, it costs you more. Ductwork leaks can also create moisture issues in your basement or crawlspace. According to educators at the University of Minnesota Extension, excess moisture can lead to all sorts of air quality issues—everything from growing mold to exploding the dust mite population inside your home. Making sure your conditioned air goes only where you want it to go can make a big difference.
  2. Ventilation Issues. All furnaces that burn
    furnace maintenance starts with a through inspection of flue pipes
    Rusted flue pipe leaking carbon monoxide gas into the home.

    fossil fuels to operate must have adequate ventilation. This is true for forced air systems and radiant heating systems with boilers; if it uses natural gas, propane, heating oil, or solid fuel to operate, the exhaust must be vented outside. That’s because combustion exhaust contains noxious compounds like carbon monoxide (CO), which are hazardous to breath. Vent pipes take this exhaust to the flue or chimney which vents the gasses outside and away from your living space. This vent pipe and flue need to be properly supported, slope upward toward the outdoor vent or chimney, and free of cracks or holes, so exhaust can’t escape indoors. It should also be kept away from any flammable materials.

  3. Heat Exchanger Problems. The heat exchanger is a coil of metal tubing that carries hot combustion fumes to the exhaust system while allowing the heat from those gases to transfer into the duct system where they can be distributed throughout the home. This critically important device keeps the noxious furnace fumes out of your home. A crack in the heat exchanger can cause those gasses, including carbon monoxide, to escape into the air you breathe. This is a potentially life-threatening issue, and an expensive repair.
  4. Dirty or Clogged Condenser Coils. This is of the most common issues causing air conditioners to struggle to cool the home and one of the easiest to fix. Dirty coils Restrict air flow to the outdoor condenser unit leading to poor heat transfer. That means the air conditioner must work harder (and consume more energy) to cool the home. The simplest solution is to keep plants, solid fencing, dog houses, and all other objects at least one foot away from the unit. The surface should be cleaned occasionally with a vacuum or brush.
  5. Uneven Condenser Unit Pad or Brackets. Whether the outdoor air conditioning condenser unit sits on a concrete pad or is mounted to the home with brackets, it needs to be level (within 10 degrees). That’s because the condenser unit relies on lubrication in the tubing to function properly. If it’s sitting too crooked, the lubrication becomes less effective and the refrigerant (coolant) lines are subjected to additional stress. This is one of the fastest ways to wear out your AC condenser prematurely.
  1. Missing Insulation. Your air conditioner has two pipes that carry the refrigerant between the evaporator (inside) and condenser coils (outside). The larger line carries the cooled gas and should be insulated. This keeps the line cool longer, improving efficiency. It also helps keeps the line from sweating indoors which could cause significant water damage and invite mold growth.
  1. Clogged or Damaged Drain Hose. The indoor portion of an air conditioner uses a drain hose to remove the condensation (moisture) that collects during the cooling process. If the drain hose becomes clogged the water can’t escape and will eventually spill out onto the floor. If the hose is damaged, moisture can leak and pool wherever the damage is, even inside a wall or ceiling. Unchecked moisture inside the home is never a healthy development, as it can lead to fungal growth and rot.

This list of potential issues is in no way exhaustive. That’s why it pays to have a professional home inspector evaluate the HVAC system in the home you are buying or selling.

the CMI designation requires an inspector to meet stringent requirements
Have your furnace inspected by a Certified Master Inspector

Make sure your home inspector is a certified professional with the skills you need. All our home inspectors are Certified Master Inspectors. That means they have the training and expertise you need to make sure your home inspection is done right. To learn more about Hawley Home Inspections’ skilled team of professional home inspectors, call or email us today at:

618-593-9631

314- 257-0040

ClientCare@HawleyHomeInspections.com

For more useful home maintenance tips and information visit us at:

https://hawleyhomeinspectionsllc.com/

https://www.facebook.com/HawleyHomeInspections

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thermal Imaging is an Important Tool for Inspectors

Thermal Imaging  – Infrared Inspection

The New Home Inspection Essential

 

Hiden water leaks often show up with thermal imaging
water leak

Buying a home is be the biggest purchase most people will make in their lifetimes. So, it’s important to invest the process. The home inspection is a critical part of the home buying process. It provides buyers with an impartial, professional, visual assessment of the home they are about to purchase. This gives buyers and their agents a valuable tool for negotiation, so it needs to give them as much information as possible. Enter infrared thermography.

 

As with most other industries, scientific advancements and new technologies have broadened the scope of a thorough home inspection and improved the inspector’s ability to assess the condition of the home. The development of modern tools like accurate, short term radon testing devices and air quality pumps and cassettes has allowed home inspectors to provide radon testing and airborne mold testing and given buyers valuable insights into the health or health risks of a home. Likewise, thermal imaging or infrared (IR) cameras have given home inspectors a whole new way to evaluate the home that gives buyers and their agents information that was previously unavailable to them.

 

Thermal imaging or thermography is an advanced, non-invasive technology that uses infrared imaging to take pictures of temperature variances of surfaces. These non-contact tools give the inspector the ability to see things that can’t be seen with the naked eye. Infrared thermography can’t actually see behind walls, but it can detect temperature differences on the surface of walls, often revealing what’s hidden. This technology can help the inspector identify and document issues that may not be apparent in a visual inspection. Using an infrared camera can reveal moisture intrusion, heat and energy loss, unexpected hot spots, and more.

 

IR cameras can detect moisture intrusion. They can find otherwise hidden plumbing leaks. They can help inspectors locate missing, damaged, or wet insulation. They can reveal unseen leaks before the damage gets serious. According to the US Department of Energy, “because wet insulation conducts heat faster than dry insulation, thermographic scans of roofs can often detect roof leaks.” Thermal imaging can also expose water and moisture intrusion at the foundation, subfloor, and around exterior doors and windows that could lead to structural damage and mold.

 

Moisture levels may show up in IR pictures when not obvious to the human eye

 

Thermography is excellent for determining issues of heat loss and air infiltration. These can be revealed in walls, ceilings, floors, windows, and IR may be able to identify electrical problems such as loose or bad connections and over loaded circuitsdoors. This technology can help an inspector find damage in radiant heating systems and determine if something is malfunctioning. Thermal imaging makes air conditioner compressor leaks visible. It can shine a light on structural defects that can lead to energy loss, like under-fastening or missing framing members. An infrared camera can detect broken seals in thermal windows.

Infrared imaging is excellent for finding hidden hot spots. These can be a sign of significant safety or fire hazards. Infrared cameras are effective at locating hotspots caused by circuit breaker defects, overloaded and undersized electric circuits, and overheated electrical equipment. Thermal imaging can find electrical faults before they cause a fire.

 

Thermal imaging can be used to help determine if appliances are working correctly. Properly operating appliances will exhibit surface temperature differences that can easily be picked up with an infrared camera.

 

Thermal cameras can’t see behind walls, but by using infrared technology, they can find a lot of problems that might not be obvious upon visual examination. Some of the other things IR cameras can reveal include serious hazards like exhaust flue leaks which can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. They can spot heat signatures created by intruders like mice, rats, raccoons, and other pests hiding in the walls or ceilings of the home. They can even help the inspector see termite and ant infestations by revealing points of energy loss through shelter tubes leading outside.

 

Infrared inspections have their limits. Thermal imaging is not an X-ray or similar technology. An IR camera can’t see through walls. It can only detect conditions that produce a temperature difference at the surface of the evaluated area. The thermal imaging device can’t see behind any obstructions including furniture, pictures or anything that will obscure the surface of the area being evaluated. Specific condition must be present for infrared imaging to find wet building materials, but when those condition are met, the images are telling.

 

As with any type of inspection, thermography can’t predict future conditions. But it can give your inspector insight into conditions that could predictably worsen. Finding hidden moisture intrusion along the roof line using thermal imaging allows for repairs to be made before it causes serious structural problems.

 

Our inspectors are Certified Residential Thermographers. That means they are trained and tested professionals. Interpreting the data gathered using infrared thermography is perhaps the most critical aspect of a thermal imaging inspection. Infrared images must be interpreted by an expert who understands the limits of the technology and issues that can cause errors in measurements like dry areas and reflected heat. Professionals understand the limits of surface readings. A qualified interpretation lets buyers know what the findings mean. Is the issue found is of immediate concern, like an overloading circuit breaker, or a home improvement item, like adding insulation to an exterior wall? The distinction is critical. Our certified inspectors have the skills and know-how to accurately interpret infrared images and explain their findings in clear language that puts the issues found in proper perspective.

 

We expect thermal imaging to rapidly become one of the more indispensable implements in our home inspection toolkit. The IR camera equipment is expensive enough that not every inspector offers this type of inspection. Those who do often charge a hefty ancillary fee. Not us.

 

At Hawley Home Inspections, we feel the information gathered using infrared imaging is too important to leave out of a complete home inspection, so just like our free WDI/termite inspection, we are making it part of the standard home inspection process. And issues found with IR equipment during the home inspection are included in the free follow-up inspection. This is the only sure way to determine whether the repair work performed has effectively addressed the issues that our thermal imaging inspection uncovered.

 

Our mission is to set the standard for the home inspection industry in the St. Louis region by providing our clients the most thorough, highest quality professional inspections they can get and to do so at a fair price. Adding infrared thermography to our home inspections without charging extra is part of accomplishing that mission.

For more useful home maintenance tips and information visit us at:

https://hawleyhomeinspectionsllc.com/

https://www.facebook.com/HawleyHomeInspections