Get To Know Your New Home’s HVAC Systems

One of the most important steps before you buy a new home or right after you move in is to get to know your new home’s HVAC systems.

Moving into a new home is a big adventure all-around, and learning its ins and outs will inevitably take some time. While that one random light switch that doesn’t seem to control anything isn’t a serious issue, not knowing how to operate your new HVAC systems is one that could end up costing you quite a bit of money. So, when making your move, make it a priority to acclimate yourself with your new home’s heating and cooling systems as soon as possible.

A home’s heating and cooling systems consume approximately 50 percent of a household’s total annual energy use – waste generated by these systems’ usage will certainly add up. While many potential buyers want to know about the efficiency of their dream home’s furnace and air conditioning units, often the questioning stops when these numbers are received. This is problematic, as while the equipment is built to offer a certain efficiency level, it won’t if it isn’t operated and cared for properly.

To help you make the most of your new home’s comfort systems, take these steps before and after closing – by familiarizing yourself with these new heating and cooling systems, you’ll be able to use them more efficiently and accurately.

HVAC questions to ask before you close

When was the last preventative maintenance tune-up performed? HVAC equipment manufacturers recommend annual maintenance for traditional heating systems and air conditioners, and bi-annual maintenance for heat pump systems which function in both capacities. When a home changes ownership, it is easy for both sides to overlook a needed maintenance tune-up, and this oversight can be detrimental to the system’s future performance. Ask your realtor to find out when the last date of service was for the home’s heating and cooling systems to ensure a tune-up isn’t missed during your move.

What warranties and service plans are in place and transferrable? Your new home’s heating and cooling systems may still be under a manufacturer’s equipment or installer’s labor warranty – knowing the details of these policies has the potential to save you thousands of dollars in the event of a malfunction! Many of today’s HVAC equipment manufacturers offer lengthy warranty terms, but often have stipulations regarding transferring the equipment’s warranty to a home’s new owner; if you fail to take the necessary steps, you may not have repairs covered under the warranty. The same goes for a labor warranty issued by the HVAC installer. Discuss with your realtor the importance of gathering such information from the seller. Ask your realtor to obtain the information for warranties on the home’s HVAC systems, as well as any other important equipment in the home, such as kitchen appliances. Make sure you read over the terms of the warranty, and take the steps necessary to transfer the warranties into your name upon closing on the home.

Get to know your HVAC systems upon move-in

Locate all equipment manuals.

Having the equipment manuals on-hand for your furnace, air conditioner, heat pump, and thermostat will be valuable should you ever need to troubleshoot a problem, as well as in learning to operate the systems. Unfortunately, these manuals may have been stored in the former owner’s personal files and packed along with their other belongings, or even lost long ago. For your benefit, look around the home to locate the manuals, or obtain replacement copies.

Manuals for heating and cooling equipment may be located in a pocket attached to the air handler. If not, look on shelves or in drawers nearby, or in the home’s utility closet or garage.

If you cannot locate the original, many equipment manufacturers offer .PDF versions available online. To find the appropriate manuals for your system, locate the manufacturer’s name and equipment model number off the unit’s faceplate. You could visit the manufacturer’s website to find your unit’s manual, or search the make and model number on to find the owner’s manual, engineering specification manual, installation manual, and much more.

Learn to operate your thermostat and adjust its settings.

Your new home’s thermostat is the gatekeeper to energy efficient heating and cooling system control. If you aren’t working it properly and haven’t tailored programmable settings to your family’s needs, there’s a strong chance you are both wasting a great deal of energy and suffering some discomfort.

If your thermostat’s manual wasn’t left behind, they’re easy to find online, just as furnace and air conditioner manuals are. Locate the manufacturer name and model number; the manufacturer’s logo is likely showing on the thermostat, though the model number may be harder to find; check inside the flip-top of the faceplate, or you may need to gently remove the entire faceplate to look inside. Again, you can visit the manufacturer’s website to find your thermostat’s manual, or find the thermostat on to get more information.

Once you find your thermostat’s user guide, give it a thorough read so you can learn exactly what scheduling capabilities it has and how to work the thermostat. If you find the new thermostat is a manual model, consider upgrading to a programmable model for more energy efficient HVAC system control.

It is essential that you get to know your thermostat and reset it upon moving in to your new home – if you don’t, you may find yourself paying high energy bills or even a service fee for an HVAC professional which could be avoided. For example, one of our team members was able to help a homeowner identify a thermostat issue in her new home, when she believed the heat pump was the problem. A woman was asking for help troubleshooting the heat pump in her new home. She stated that despite adjusting the thermostat, the heat pump would continue to run. After asking her a few questions, I was able to determine the problem was actually with her thermostat – she had a programmable thermostat and hadn’t realized it, and the heat pump system was still operating on the former owner’s settings. When she adjusted the settings, it was only a temporary override, so the heat pump was eventually kicking back on once her set temperature was reached and the override ended. She was about to make an emergency service call to an HVAC company, but instead, was able to reprogram the thermostat to her needs.

See what energy-saving resources and HVAC incentives your local utility provider offers.

Even if your new home’s heating and cooling systems seem to be getting the job done, they may not be doing it at the efficiency level you expected. Many utility providers offer programs to help homeowners identify energy-wasting deficiencies in their homes, including those pertaining to the HVAC systems. Low-cost or free energy audits and home improvements offered by utility providers can greatly improve HVAC efficiency as well as a home’s overall energy efficiency.

Utility providers are joining the energy efficiency movement, and often encourage their residential customers to make the switch to energy-smart appliances by offering monetary incentives. They may offer rebates for replacing inefficient furnaces and air conditioners with high-efficiency or ENERGY STAR rated models. You may only qualify for such incentives if you use an approved HVAC contractor, so be sure to check with your utility provider before your purchase and install a new system.

To learn what resources are available to you, check the websites of your utility providers or give them a call.