We infrequently need to work on our homes’ plumbing, HVAC, Electrical, and other household appliances and equipment. When we move, we tend not to take the time to learn about these systems in the new home before we move in. Usually, if the home inspector tells us everything is in working order, that’s the end of the conversation.
A Good Home Inspector
A home inspector looks at a home’s structure and mechanical systems to provide you with a clear picture of their state. Along with the assessment, the inspector should be able to provide some direction for needed repairs and updates.
As the home buyer, you should accompany the inspector, ask questions and take notes on where things are located. A good inspector will take the time to answer any questions, provide insights that you might not have thought to ask about and provide a detailed report.
Equipment Owner’s Guide
An owner’s guide is important for maintaining and performing minor repairs to household mechanical systems. If the previous owner does not have the guides, obtain the equipment’s brand, model number, and manufacture date. Most brands have owner’s guides available online in PDF format that you can look up. Review these and familiarize yourself with the basic functions of the equipment.
Perform an online search for user reviews and recalls. What you find can help you prepare for potential equipment issues. It is common for people to ignore or not be aware of product recalls.
For most municipalities, there are local ordinances regarding household mechanical systems. While local contractors should be well-versed in these, homeowners who plan to make any changes will benefit from becoming familiar with them as well.
Things like replacing a water heater may not require an inspection, but relocating it (even by a little) may. These nuances can trip up homeowners and yet are easily avoided with a little research.
How Different Can It Be?
If you are new to home buying, the household mechanics are also new. But, if you’ve lived in a single-family home for a while, you may feel as though you already have a handle on it and can deal with the systems after you move.
Let’s start with a simple thing. Heating, ventilation & Air conditioning (HVAC system) control panels are incorporated into the household thermostat. Most thermostats have a “fan only” setting. But, if the HVAC system is not wired for “fan only,” that setting has no effect. This can be different between two houses in the same neighborhood as well as across the country.
Different parts of the country can have different systems. For example, heat may be supplied electronically or via natural gas or oil. Each method has requirements. Moving from the southwest to the northeast can present unfamiliar mechanical systems.
Moving from the northern states to Florida means experiencing mechanical systems that are installed in very different locations. In the north, everything is well insulated indoors to protect from the cold. In southern states like Florida, there are more options for installing and maintaining systems.
If you are moving long-distance and cannot be present with the home inspector, you should request photos of the mechanical systems and where they are located. You should inspect these systems yourself at the earliest possible time to become familiar with where they are and their accessibility. Don’t wait until there is an issue to determine where they are and how to get to them.
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