We live in the Pacific Northwest, so cooling our homes in the warmer months has not been too large a topic until the last 10-20 years as global climate change has been occurring in noticeable intervals. A cooling system is not mandatory for homes in our climate zone, but as the years go by, they have become a lot more desirable. Because a cooling system is not mandatory for occupancy, if a whole-home cooling source does not exist, it will be omitted from the report.
AC Inspection: Important Considerations
Manufacturers of air source air conditioners direct the inspector not to run the unit unless the exterior temperatures are above 65 degrees F and holding. The simple reason for this is due to the collection of refrigerants being in one location due to the ambient exterior temperatures. Operating this cooling machine at temperatures below 65 degrees could damage the unit as it tried to move settled coolant fluid. When a unit is being inspected in the colder months, an exterior visual inspection will suffice with a recommendation to have the unit serviced at the time of the sale.
Key Components of an AC Inspection
The exterior of an air conditioner will tell the inspector all he or she needs to know about how this machine has been treated over the years. The aluminum fins on the exterior of the unit are the main heat transfer surface. These surfaces are thin strips of aluminum that are wrapped around the copper tubing that allows the refrigerant fluid to flow inside. Due to the fact that heat is always drawn to cold, as the refrigerant flows through the copper tubes, the heat from inside the structure is then released at the exterior of the house and the fluid inside the copper tubes cools down.
Should the exterior of the air conditioner fins be damaged, enclosed, or encrusted, these observations need to be noted and passed onto the HVAC service person so he or she knows what type of servicing this machine needs. Should the observation of the exterior of the unit include damages to the aluminum heat transfer surfaces, there may be nothing that can be done to make repairs to this portion of the unit, and the result will be a lower efficiency unit for the remainder of its service life. While the machine will still run its normal cycle, the heat transfer will be slower, which in turn, will make the unit have to run longer to reach the desired indoor temperature. This additional run time will shorten the life of the machine over time.
Checking the Refrigerant Fluid During an AC Inspection
The one aspect of an air conditioner that cannot be verified during the course of this inspection is the refrigerant fluid. The inspector can run the machine and make observations of the temperatures that are experienced at the supply air registers, but the refrigerant quantity cannot be known until an HVAC professional hooks their specialty gauges to the refrigerant ports and is able to read the pressure levels. An inspector can use a thermometer at the registers, but the simple understanding that the air coming from the duct system is not at a cool enough temperature to offset the solar heat gain the house is exposed to should be enough to recommend the refrigerant levels be checked for proper operation.
AC Inspection Summary
An air conditioner is a simple machine. It is electric and turns on and turns off. These machines have few components. Individual portions of the system may fail, but that does not mean the air conditioner is no longer good. Fans can be replaced and refrigerant fluids can be filled. Should a fluid line develop a leak, the leak can be found and sealed. Basically, this machine will run until the compressor dies. Yes, the efficiency will fade over time due to the exposure of the exterior unit to the elements and actions taking place around it, but you should expect 15-25 years of operation with annual maintenance.
Getting an AC Inspection or HVAC Inspection
At Octopus Home Inspections, we are committed to upholding a strong code of ethics, including professionalism and integrity. Our home inspections are extremely thorough, fairly priced, detailed, and accurate. We strive to be a home inspection company that you can trust completely, knowing we have your safety and wellbeing in mind. If you’re looking for a home inspector you can trust in Portland, Oregon, contact us here.
“Octopus home inspection is the best inspection company I’ve used to date. Very thorough, knowledgeable, and they gave much insight to the problems we faced during our inspection. I am in the construction trades myself and found octopus to be a hands-down good decision due to the professionalism and deep knowledge base. If they have a time slot open, TAKE IT!!”
– Matt (Yelp Review)