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How Do you Determine the Age of an HVAC System when Looking at Homes?


If you’ve been house hunting you realize many homeowners don’t know the age of their heating and cooling system.  Maybe it was there when they bought the house.  Perhaps they know its age and just don’t want to tell you how old it is. It’s always wise to be able to determine the age of the system for yourself. Since the HVAC system is the most expensive system in the house – more costly than the electrical or plumbing systems – it is important to determine the system’s age so you can estimate how long it will last.  You’ll also know how to structure any offer you make based on what you’ll expect to spend in the near future for repairs or replacement of the HVAC system.

So how do you discover the age of an HVAC system when looking at homes? This guide provides answers.

Determining the Age of an HVAC System

The first thing to do is to examine the furnace or the air handler.  On the cabinet of the furnace, or inside the cover, you may find a metal plate that provides you with the information you need.  Some of these plates give the manufacturing date of the furnace or air handler, which makes it quite easy.

If the manufacturing date is not present, you may find a serial number for the furnace.  Jot down the brand name and all the numbers you find on the plate.  Then call a local dealer for that brand of furnace or air handler.  They should be able to look up the year of the furnace using the information you give them.  It’s the same information they use to determine dates in order to select the right replacement parts for HVAC systems.

If there are no numbers, which is unlikely, note the brand and model name of the furnace.  That will give the local dealer a ballpark idea of the age of the furnace.

Checking the Age of a Split HVAC System

If the HVAC system uses an indoor furnace, be sure to do the same examination of the outside condensing unit, if it has one. In many homes, the furnace and the central air conditioner or heat pump were not installed at the same time.  It’s possible that the air conditioner was added later.  It may also be that the furnace was replaced but not the air conditioner, meaning the AC may be older.  Find the manufacturing plate on the condensing unit and do the same investigative work to determine the unit’s age.

Protecting Yourself Against an Old HVAC System

If you’re concerned about the age of an HVAC system, consider hiring the local contractor for that brand to look it over.  He or she can evaluate its condition and tell you how long they think it will last. An inspection typically costs $50-$125, and you’ll have to pay that out of your own pocket.  If there are significant concerns, give up on that house.  Or, you might consider dropping your potential offer to reflect HVAC replacement sooner rather than later. Another option is to ask the seller to buy a 3-year home warranty that covers the HVAC system so that you know you won’t have to invest money in it immediately.

Finding out the age and condition of the HVAC system is an important part of house hunting.  Thinking the HVAC system is in good condition when it’s not can be a costly mistake.  This guide will help you determine the age of the HVAC system when looking at houses and to make a good decision in response.

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