The HVAC system is perhaps the most vital system in any residence. More than half of all residential energy costs go toward keeping a residence at a comfortable temperature, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). For the elderly, a properly operating HVAC system is vital year-round. The risk of hypothermia increases significantly as people age. Seniors can succumb to hypothermia at temperatures as high as 65 degrees Fahrenheit.

In addition to the importance of knowing they can rely on a properly functioning system, replacing an HVAC system is one of the most substantial costs for any building owner. Inspecting a HVAC system will identify potential problems before they become costly repairs, and routine inspections can extend the useful life of components. Property inspectors provide that healthy dose of prevention for building owners. Here are a few items HVAC system inspections should cover:

Electrical system and components

Problems with the electrical system or improper installations can result in damage to costly HVAC system parts or building fires. All inspections should include a check of the overcurrent protection device. Property inspectors should ensure that the system is properly grounded and that the service conductor and service disconnect are in good order. All connections need to be working properly and tightly in place. Inspectors should visually check all electrical components for damage, missing pieces, or deterioration due to age.

Air ducts, vents, plenum, and grills

Property inspectors should conduct a thorough visual inspection of all air distribution parts for leaks, rust, damage, and signs of condensation. They should test each room to be sure they are getting the correct amount of air. Non-zoned systems need to have equal air distribution; zoned systems do not necessarily have to have equal air distribution. Sheet metal ducts should be inspected for proper seals where accessible. Any flex needs adequate support, and there should be no sharp turns that will result in restricted airflow. Inspectors should check that all materials are up to code.

Cooling system

One of the main systems of any HVAC system consists of the compressor, refrigeration lines, condensation pan and drain lines, and evaporator coil. It is vital to confirm that the compressor is level in all directions. It needs to be located away from the dryer exhaust or any expulsion of hot air. The fins should be inspected for dents or any items that might obstruct airflow. The coil should be clean and rust-free. Refrigeration lines should be free of any kinks, leaks, or corrosion. All insulation should be visually inspected where accessible.

In addition to the aforementioned areas, property inspectors should check the thermostat for proper operation. They should measure the temperature drop between the air supply from the evaporator and the return air. If possible, inspectors should determine the date of the most recent inspection. If the last inspection was more than six months ago, their report should recommend having an HVAC professional conduct a service call.