Thats approximately what I do now...
Unless there are records I ALWAYS assume that the HVAC system(s) have not
been maintained and suggest a "tune up" prior to closing.
I almost always suggest service contracts because it is not a question of IF
a unit is going to hick-up, but when. We have all heard horror stories
about the unit that fails on a Friday nite, a wet, cold, long weekend,
friday with a party planned for the weekend, and the owner without a
contract being told the earliest someone can even evaluate the unit is
Tuesday.... Service contracts also mean that the unit will get "looked at"
at least once every year, sometimes twice... and I see units that haven't
been looked at in YEARS...
If it is "older than the average life expectancy" I call that out... but I
am not supposed to use scare tactics... my job is to inform as best a
GENERALIST can. There are people on this forum who blast home inspectors
routinely because we don't have the experience... I acknoledge that... and
say GREAT, give me some knowledge, guidelines, pointers, etc... as I am
there to look at more than just the HVAC system. People don't want to call
in 4-5 different trades, and pay for them, they want ONE person to give
their best guestimation of who they NEED to call in next...
Unfortunately, I am also not in a position to "recomend" system replacement
as I don't know the entire story. It rarely makes sense for people to
replace systems if they are only going to be in the house 2-3 years. Unless
the unit is older than most or in really bad shape, the payback is typically
about 4-5 years. Places with high electric rates, or some really cheap
units (EER of <8) or other factors that drive up the monthly cost all are
factors that I may not be privey to.
What I want Preston't for is to put a bit more reality into my
guestimations. I don't have the experience to look at a model/serial number
on the wide variety of systems I see and know its manufacturing date. Nor
can I know its effeciency. On some brands the effeciency varies
dramatically between their low end and high end units.
I would LIKE to be able to say....
"According to the book I carry, your unit was manufactured between 1995 and
1996 and, at its best, had a Efficeincy rating of 9.4 and a coop of 6. This
could be compared to the BEST efficeincy today of 18 and a Coop of 9. This
means that you could reduce that portion of your utility bill a factor of
those numbers in an ideal situation. (notice al the weasel words) You may
want to talk to some HVAC contractors and get some proposals of what they
might be able to do for you and the possible pay back periods based on
todays utility rates...."
Obviously when I see units that are sick... I can strongly suggest getting a
full evaluation from someone like yourself.... but people don't have to
listen. I red flagged a unit several years ago because the CO detector on
my belt went off when I went into the basement. The flue pipe missed the
chimney nipple by a good 6". I had the chance to go back to the same house
a year or so later... Guess what... my red tape was still there, it still
hadn't been serviced yet... and the agent said that because of my red tape
and note the 2nd buyers had ALSO negotiated an allowance... and ALSO had
nothing done.... ( I had told the original owners not to come home until it
was fixed and explained the risk & problem....)
Sorry for the rambling response....