What Can I Expect From My Home Inspection?

Home Inspection Checklist

You’ve found your dream home, and now begins the journey to closing. Before you can move in and make it your own, you’ll need to have a licensed home inspector come take a look.

Having your future home inspected is beneficial to you as the buyer. It protects you from making a huge financial mistake by allowing you to assess risk based on any findings. If an inspector finds serious issues, you can use that information to negotiate a lower price or ask the current homeowners to take care of the issues before you proceed.

Below are some of the things you can expect when we arrive for your home inspection:

Visual Inspection

A home inspection is a non-invasive process. The more accessible the various rooms and spaces in the house, the more detailed and accurate our report will be. We will not cut into walls to inspect wiring or pipes, or move personal belongings to access crawl spaces. If we cannot get into a space, it will be marked on the report as “inaccessible” and they will move on.

Because of this, any home inspection will not necessarily reveal every problem that exists. However, a trained eye will be able to pick up on early signs of an issue.

Here are just some of the systems and components that we evaluate:

  • Grading: Moisture has an effect on a home’s foundation, so we are always looking for signs, like wet spots or bulging, that water is causing problems.
  • Foundation: Visible and exposed sections of the foundation walls are checked for cracks or other signs of damage.
  • Roof & chimney: Damage to the roof or chimney could indicate water damage inside. We will look for missing shingles, condition of the flashing, and condition of gutters and downspouts. We also check the fireplace and chimney for signs of damage or deterioration.
  • HVAC system: We test the heating and cooling systems for proper function, and check that all living areas have heating.
  • Plumbing: We will check every plumbing fixture for proper flow and drainage, paying special attention to signs of leaks or poor installation.
  • Appliances: All installed appliances are checked for proper function, noting any damage or inoperative parts. We also note whether any of them are past their serviceable life.
  • Electrical: All safety breakers, such as ground fault and arc fault breakers and receptacles, are checked to confirm they are operating correctly. A representative sample of receptacles are tested throughout the house, inside and outside. We open any accessible electrical panels and check the interior wiring for conditions that could be safety hazards.
  • Attics & crawl spaces: Attics are hot, and crawl spaces are usually wet. We go into them anyway, since these areas can hide evidence of issues that will affect the entire house.
  • Walls, floors, & ceilings: As we go through the house, we are checking all the interior surfaces for problems like cracking, bowing, or staining, and be alert for excessive bounciness or squeaking.

Additional Testing and Services

Although we focus mostly on the inspection itself, we do offer a few additional services to our  clients. These include tests for radon, water quality, and the condition of above-ground oil tanks. For other testing, such as for wood-destroying organisms or organic growths, we feel our clients would be better served by calling in a specialist who has far more training than any home inspector could offer.

Home Inspection Report

At the end of the inspection, we do our “debriefing,” where we go through the major conditions we have identified, and answer all your questions. You leave with a binder full of information, including detailed explanations behind some of the common conditions we find, along with a book of home maintenance and repair tips. The complete home inspection report will be available within 24 hours of the end of the inspection. These reports are typically between 70-100 pages long, with pictures and clear explanations of our findings.

We won’t express any opinion on whether a house price is high or low, or offer any predictions about when particular systems will fail. We don’t have a crystal ball! We are there simply to report what we have found at that time so you can make informed decisions moving forward.

Quality Home Inspections in Frederick, MD

A new home is a huge investment. That’s why, at Inspections by Bob, we make it our mission to go above and beyond to give you the thorough home inspection you deserve.

We inspect every nook and cranny of your potential home and provide you with a comprehensive report within 24 hours. Want extra testing for hazards? We offer radon and water quality testing as well. Don’t settle for just any home inspector – Call the professionals at Inspections by Bob today!

Why You Need to Take Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Seriously!

Earlier this month, a tragic story appeared on the news: an Ohio  family of four, along with their three dogs, were killed by Carbon Monoxide poisoning:

News report on death of family from carbon monoxide poisoning
News report on the death of a family from carbon monoxide poisoning

These deaths were preventable, if only the family had had a carbon monoxide detector installed. According to the police statement, there were no such detectors installed. The source of the colorless, odorless gas was found to be the recently-installed tankless water heater. The water heater was installed by a family member, the police said, and there was no record of a permit for the work.

Here’s Proof that Inspections Save Lives

This is one of the big reasons why we are so insistent on obtaining the proper permits, and having the work inspected for safety. We recently encountered a water heater that had been installed incorrectly, although you wouldn’t know it by looking at it.

Natural gas water heater venting into chimney

Looks like a perfectly normal installation for a natural gas water heater, with the vent connector entering the chimney, where it will go into its own flue to be exhausted out of the top. As I do with all accessible fireplace ash pits, I opened the ash cleanout door (just visible behind the blue cooler) and stuck my camera in to take a picture. And this is what I found.

Inside the chimney showing disconnected gas vent

See the silver pipe (right arrow)? It is supposed to connect to that hole (left arrow) which leads to the chimney flue. Only, there is no connector. The water heater was venting directly into the chimney under the fireplace, where the exhaust fumes (which contain carbon monoxide) could easily find their way through the ash dump door (where the gas line is going) and into the living space. Oh, and the plywood form underneath the hearth was still in place, and you can see that it has blackened areas where it’s been exposed to heat.

In this case, I showed my pictures to the buyer’s agent, and asked that she contact the listing agent to make sure the homeowners knew of the very real danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Knowing that my inspection could have saved a family’s life is one of the biggest rewards I could ever hope for!

When should you have a Home Inspection?

When people think of having a home inspection, they typically associate it with buying a house. But that’s only a part of our business. Just as you take your car to the mechanic for regular oil changes, or go to the doctor when you’re sick, there are times when you need to know about the condition of your home, even if it’s not part of a purchase process.

Pre-Listing Inspections

Before putting your house on the market, it’s wise to get a home inspection to identify issues with the property that you may not have been aware of, but which can create a nasty surprise when your buyer’s inspector finds them. At that point, you could lose the sale, and will then have to disclose those defects anyway to any other potential buyer. Instead, find out what the condition is before listing the property. Then you and your agent can discuss how best to proceed; the easiest is to simply list the house “as is” and have a copy of the report available for any interested people to look at. Your agent can make it clear that the listing price has already taken all the issues in the report into account, so there’s less chance of having to negotiate based on what the buyer’s inspector reports.

Mrs. Bob checking a furnace room with flashlight

Home Checkups

Just like your annual checkup with the doctor, or your pet’s Rabies vaccination, houses need regular checkups too. If you’ve been in your home for 7-10 years, there are systems and components that may need either servicing or replacement. There could also be safety equipment that wasn’t required when the house was built, but could be upgraded to prevent injury or damage. Maybe building standards have changed, or you’ve noticed that there are some new cracks in a wall. A home checkup inspection can tell you what needs attention now, and what to plan for in the near future.

New Construction

Even brand-new houses can have problems. Sure, you will do a walk-through with the builder, but you probably don’t have any idea what the trouble signs are when you’re looking at the forest of wall framing, and have to take their word for it as to the condition. Even builders who say they have their own inspector come through prior to closing don’t like to admit that those inspectors are focusing mostly on cosmetic issues, and not things like improperly installed furnaces, or plumbing connections with the wrong fittings.

Inspector Bob at a Home Checkup

Inherited Properties

If you’ve inherited the family homestead but haven’t lived there in several decades, you may not have an idea of its condition, or what systems are not working right, or are due for replacement. This is crucial information if you are unsure whether you will be keeping the home or putting it on the market. A home inspection gives you the unbiased view, presented without judgment, without overwhelming you when you are dealing with a loss. Also, this article has some excellent advice on how to prepare for inheriting a house, and what to do when the time comes.

Got a question about Home Inspections? Email us! We’ll be happy to help, no matter the circumstance.

Why Choose a Home Maintenance Inspection?

Home Maintenance Inspector in Maryland

You probably had an inspection done before moving in to your house, but have you had a maintenance inspection?

You may be asking yourself, “What is a home maintenance inspection?” and “Do I really need one?”

If you have lived in your home for seven years or more, the answer is “Yes!”

What Is a Home Maintenance Inspection?

A home maintenance inspection, or Home Checkup, is for someone who is not planning on selling, but would like to know what areas of their home need attention to improve comfort, safety, and efficiency. After all, houses age just like people do, and just as you get regular checkups from your doctor and dentist, your home needs regular visits from Inspections by Bob.

Our inspector will be able to give you vital information about your home’s maintenance needs, including items that are coming up on the end of their serviceable lives. We can also point out spot potential problems that are easy to repair early on, before they become bigger, and more costly, issues.

At Inspections by Bob, we inspect the entire house, inside and out. We go into every room, including the basement, attic, and/or crawlspace, as well as walking the roof if we can. We identify the vital utility safety controls, so you can find them in an emergency. The inspection is very thorough, from floor to ceiling, as well as in closets and cabinets.

All of the main systems of the house are checked, such as heating and cooling, electrical and plumbing, as well as installed appliances.

At the end of the inspection, we go over our findings with you and answer all of your questions, and you will receive a comprehensive written report usually by the next day. This report will serve as a “to do” list to help you prioritize necessary repairs and maintenance items.

Of course, you could choose to have a contractor come in to evaluate a particular system. But they’re motivated to find a problem they can sell a repair for, so their opinion isn’t unbiased. While most specialty contractors are not dishonest, they do make their money on jobs completed. As home inspectors, we are prohibited by Maryland state law from doing any repairs on a home we have inspected, nor can we sell the homeowner any replacement parts. We are there simply to give you an honest review on the current state of your house. How you choose to handle the needed repairs is completely up to you.

Don’t Ignore Your Home’s Health!

Your home should serve your family for a lifetime and beyond. At Inspections by Bob, our mission is to make sure it does just that. Don’t put it off; schedule your Home Checkup today!

 

Keep Your Home Safer by Caring for These 6 Appliances

Taking Care of Home Appliances

We rely on appliances every day to keep our food fresh, to cook, to clean our clothes… the list goes on. It can be easy to take them for granted.

Appliances that are not maintained are a potential hazard to your health and your home. Taking the time to do some regular checks and upkeep can not only protect your home, but also keep your appliances working for you, longer.

Here are some helpful safety tips to keep your appliances in working order:

Refrigerator

Your refrigerator is one of those modern conveniences that, if it isn’t working properly, it can ruin your whole day.

Most refrigerators can last for more than a decade with proper care and maintenance, so follow these tips to keep your food cool every day:

  • Check hoses for kinks
  • Check water connection for leaks
  • Make sure it is plugged into a GFCI. Older-style outlets don’t protect from power surges.
  • Clear dust and lint underneath and behind. This is a fire hazard and can impact function.
  • Check for exposed cords from rolling over. This is also a fire hazard.

Washer & Dryer

Keeping your clothes clean and fresh is an important part of daily life, and you rely on your washer and dryer to make this task as painless as possible.

If kept in good condition, your washer can last up to 10 years, and your dryer can be expected to make it about 13 years. Keep these things in mind when dealing with your washer and dryer:

  • Check washer hose connections for leaks, kinks, and brittle sections.
  • Hoses need to be replaced every couple of years, especially if you live in an area with hard water.
  • Clean lint catcher after every load of laundry. This keeps your dryer running well and also decreases the risk of fires.
  • Check dryer vent every couple months. Watch for clogs and proper connection.
  • Loose hoses, seals, and connections can lead to gas and carbon monoxide leaks. Check connections often.
  • If your dryer uses gas, pay attention to gas smells.
  • Clean your dryer exhaust hoses twice a year. This improves dryer function and decreases fire hazards.

Water Heater

Having warm water is one of those luxuries of modern life that you can live without, but do you really want to? A well-cared-for water heater can last about a decade.

Keep your water heater in top condition with these tips:

  • Release the pressure valve at least once per year.
  • Insulate for efficiency, especially if you live in a cold climate.
  • Check pipes for leaks.
  • Drain the sediment once a year to improve efficiency and avoid malfunctions.

Dishwasher

Having clean dishes is one of the best parts of the day, and you get them thanks to your trusty dishwasher. Most dishwashers can last about a decade.

Do these things to help it stay in good shape:

  • Check water connections for leaks.
  • Check drain connection for clogs.
  • Clean any debris away from heat coil.

Stove

Cooking healthy, tasty meals means having the proper appliances at your disposal. With correct care and maintenance, your stove can last around 15 years, the highest of most home appliances.

Do these things to keep your stove working great for years:

  • Clean regularly to prevent leftover food or oil from catching fire.
  • Be aware of any gas leaks.

Home Check-ups & Maintenance Inspections in Maryland

If you want to find out what may need attention in your home, schedule a maintenance inspection with Inspections by Bob! We go through each room of your home, as well as the exterior, looking for indications of issues that may need your attention. You receive a comprehensive report outlining any suggested maintenance that will keep your home as safe and efficient as possible. Schedule yours today!

8 Tips for Preparing for Your Home Inspection

You’ve found a buyer for your home and accepted an offer. Now, all that is left is to pass your home inspection. With a few preparations, you can ensure that the inspection goes quickly, with no surprises that could potentially slow down or stop the process altogether.

Here are 8 ways to prepare your home for a smooth home inspection:

Clear Access Points

Before your inspection, do some decluttering. Not only is a clean home an indicator that it is well cared for, but the inspector should not have to walk over or move your personal effects to do their job. Protect any fragile items against accidental breakage, and store any hazardous items, such as firearms, in appropriate locked safes.

If you are in the middle of packing, stack boxes nicely, but keep them about a foot away from the wall for easy access to the perimeter. While it’s tempting to use the garage as a storage cube, this prevents us from seeing the condition of floors and walls, and could block access to an attic hatch. Better to rent a storage space or a storage pod.

The inspector needs to get in every room of the home, including any basement, attic, or crawlspace. If you have an access hatch in a closet, be sure to remove any clothes that are hanging in the way, and clear any shoes or boxes off the floor so that our ladder can fit.

Preparing for a home inspection

If the main water shut-off is blocked by belongings, we can’t see its condition, and you can’t get at it to shut off the water in an emergency.

Clean Up the Exterior

Take a walk around the outside of the house and make sure there is no plant growth (or snow, depending on the season and your location) in the way of exterior inspection points. As a general guide, there should be as much of a pathway around the house as you can manage so  the foundation can be inspected.

Don’t forget to prune any overhanging trees or limbs within 10 feet of the roofline. While it may not be a deal breaker, it will go in the inspection report and the buyers could end up asking that you take care of it or adjust your price. If this goes beyond your DIY comfort level, consider hiring a professional.

Replace Batteries & Bulbs

If any smoke detectors or carbon monoxide alarms are chirping, replace the batteries. While we do not test these detectors, we will note if they are making noises.

Check all the light fixtures in and around the house, especially in your attic or basement. If we see a bulb out in a fixture, we can’t know why; it might be just the bulb, but it could also be a faulty fixture, or even a wiring issue, and we will recommend an electrician make repairs.

Clear Out & Clean Appliances

Part of a home inspection is making sure the appliances are running. The refrigerator will be inspected as well as the oven and range hood. Here’s a hint: load up your dishwasher and put in the detergent, but don’t start it; we will do that for you as we test it.

Check Toilets & Drains

Turn on your faucets to make sure they are working properly and that your drains are not clogged. If you notice a slow drain, you can clear it yourself, or have a plumber address it. Give your toilets a quick flush as well, and remove bath toys and any other items stored in the tub or shower, so we can check it thoroughly..

Make Sure Water Drains away from the House

Water damage is a beast that nobody wants to deal with, and could get very costly. If you haven’t had your gutters cleaned recently, have that done, along with installing downspout extensions to keep water away from the foundation.

You should also check to make sure that the your lawn slopes away from your home. Water draining toward the foundation can cause water to gather in the basement or against the foundation. Take some time to slope dirt away in any area that comes in contact with your foundation.

Unlock All Gates & Doors

Again, access is key. The inspector needs to be able to get into every area of your home. Leave all doors and gates unlocked, as well as any electric boxes. If you are uncomfortable leaving them unlocked, you can leave keys instead.

If there are certain areas you don’t want accessed, such as a room where you have put your nervous dog, leave a note for the inspector explaining the situation, and clearly mark the door. The drawback to this is that we will have to mark the room as needing to be checked carefully during the final walk-through, and any issues that arise could complicate the closing process.

Plan to Leave Your Home Early

An inspector will typically arrive 20-30 minutes before the inspection time to get set up and ready to go before the buyer arrives. You should plan to be out of the house by then, as buyers are not typically comfortable asking questions in front of the homeowner.

If you are aware of an issue and are worried it may affect the results of the inspection, you can leave a simple note saying that you know it’s a problem, and are working on addressing it.

Don’t forget to take your pets with you, if you have them. If you can’t remove them from the premises, lock them up somewhere safe, such as a crate or kennel. Animals can get nervous with strangers in the house, and we cannot guarantee that we can prevent one from escaping through an open door.

Plan to be gone a minimum of 3 hours for the inspection to be completed, but also be flexible if it runs longer than anticipated. You can ask that the buyer’s agent give you a call when the inspection is wrapping up, so you know it’s all right to return.

Pre-Listing Home Inspections in Maryland

Get ahead of potential deal breakers with a pre-listing home inspection with Inspections by Bob! One of our licensed independent inspectors will do a thorough walkthrough and inform you of any defects that could drive away a buyer – giving you the opportunity to fix them or adjust your listing price accordingly for a smoother sale. Schedule your inspection today!

We Are Always On Duty

One of the “occupational hazards” of being a Home Inspector is that it is very hard to not be one. Case in point: on a recent afternoon we took a stroll around our town, enjoying the balmy weather and doing some window-shopping. Downtown Frederick, MD has many buildings dating back to the 19th and early 20th century, and we’re always checking out and admiring the architectural details. At one point in our walk, some cracks on a facade caught my eye. When I stopped to take a closer look, I spotted something.

It takes a lot of force to crack brick.

Look down the alleyway. See the building at the end? See how the side wall of the building on the right is leaning to the left?

Here’s a view of the front corner of the building.

See the big plates with the bolts?

What’s Going On Here?

See those two square plates at the middle and the top of the corner? These are part of a lateral restraint system commonly seen on old houses. In fact, if you look a little further along the side wall, you can see the star-shaped metal plate. This is the tell-tale sign of a lateral restraint installation.

If you were to go inside a house with a lateral restraint, this is what you might see. This is a different house, one that we walked through during an estate sale (which is a great way to go poking around old houses!).

lateral restraint bar in an old house

See the white rod running between the joists? They are connected by a turnbuckle, which allows you to change the pulling force on the restraints if necessary.

Back to the property in question. We walked down the alley next to the building to get a closer look. The whole side wall was leaning outwards significantly. There was snowmelt dripping from the roof edge, which helped me see just how much displacement had occurred.

The dot on my shoe is the drop from the edge of the roof.

See the dark spot on the top of my shoe? That’s the spot where water from the roof edge dripped onto it, which shows that the roofline is sticking out about 18″ from the base of the wall. Now, this is a structural masonry wall so it’s pretty thick, but that’s still a lot of leaning. What could have caused this? Of course, we can’t be sure, since we don’t know when the building started to lean, but we can hazard a guess based on that alleyway.

alleyway between buildings

Old Traffic vs. New Traffic

This paved alleyway is just wide enough for cars and other vehicles to get through. But it probably started out as a dirt or stone alley and only had horse-drawn carriage traffic. Now it is subject to much, much heavier vehicles, which can compress the soil under the alley and cause issues with the foundations of adjoining buildings. All that pressure has to go somewhere, and old stone foundations can be compromised if they are not properly reinforced.

What do you think? Why is the building leaning, and what (if anything) should be done about it?

If you’ve got an old house that hasn’t been inspected in a while, give us a call. We’ll help you find out what you need to do to ensure your house keeps standing a long, long time.

Should You Trust a Home Inspector Recommended by Your Realtor?

Realtor Recommended Home Inspector

A thorough home inspection is a necessary part of the home buying process. With all the possible inspectors for hire, how do you know that you are getting a good one?

Your realtor may be able to suggest an inspector or two that they have worked with in the past to help you get started. But should you just take their word for it?

An oversight in the inspection process could cost you later.

You want to make sure that whoever you hire is looking out for you and your investment. Below are some things to consider before hiring someone your realtor recommends, and why you may want to find an inspector yourself.

Do You Trust Your Realtor?

The realtor-buyer relationship should be one of trust. But when your realtor seems to be pushing for a specific home inspector, it should give you pause.

Your realtor gets a commission from the sale of a home. If they have a strong working relationship with an inspector, that person may feel an obligation to help that realtor get the sale.

While it is unlikely that the home inspector would do anything to risk losing their licensing, they could still end up minimizing issues to not jeopardize the sale. This way, the realtor gets their commission, and they continue to send business to the inspector. But you end up stuck with a fix that you would have otherwise turned away from.

As a rule, if your realtor is making recommendations, they should give you no fewer than three names to check into.

Realtors Have Experience

Your realtor has been through a lot of home sales and, therefore, inspections. They have likely come across many home inspectors, both good and bad. This could be a handy resource to help you weed through the listings.

Just remember, you should be given at least three solid recommendations. Ask your realtor why they recommend those inspectors. What determines a “good” inspector that makes it onto their suggested list?

Do Your Research

The most important thing you can do is some research, rather than just take the first name given to you and hire them.

Look up reviews for local inspection companies. Ask your neighbors who they used and what their experience was. Don’t forget the list from your realtor.

When you think you have found a few you are interested in, ask them questions about their services, experience, training, and professional affiliation.

Independent Home Inspector in Maryland

With Inspections by Bob, you never have to worry about whose best interests are being considered. We are Independent Home Inspectors with no ties to any realtor, builder, remodeler, inspection franchise, or other contractor.

You can rest assured that the only investment we are protecting is yours. Schedule your inspection today!

5 Common Kitchen Defects Our Home Inspectors Will Look For

5 Common Kitchen Defects Our Home Inspectors Will Look For

The kitchen is the hub of any home. It’s where we try a new recipe, gather to eat as a family, and do all our best entertaining.

When looking for a new home, you know exactly what you are looking for in your kitchen: Room for storage, easy flow of traffic, and a space large enough for your table. And while you may be willing to update a kitchen to your tastes, a whole renovation can get pricey.

Before you sign on the dotted line, you will want to hire a home inspector. An inspection done by a licensed professional from Inspections by Bob can save you a headache from any surprises later.

Here are some common kitchen defects our inspectors will look for:

Vents That Don’t Go Anywhere

The range hood and exhaust vent exists to extract steam and catch grease splatter, protecting you and surrounding cabinetry. It also removes smoke and odor from the house. However, many homes have range hoods that merely recirculate the air. While this is allowed, we don’t recommend it, as it does little to actually clear the air. We will test the fan for proper operation, and locate the termination to make sure that it vents to the outside, as it should.

Faulty Wiring

If you’ve ever read a warning label on an electrical appliance, you know that water and electricity do not mix well! Kitchens should have Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) protection for all receptacles serving a countertop, or within six feet of the sink. This includes any fixed islands. GFCIs help prevent electrocution by sensing any change in electrical output and shutting off power before you get injured.

The wrong electrical wiring can be a fire hazard. Your inspector will check to make sure that the wiring is suited for a kitchen, and is protected properly.  

Plumbing Defects

A leaky faucet or pipe can be an indication of a much larger issue. If you don’t find and fix the source, you could end up with microbial growths or, even worse, rotting framing that requires a renovation. When inspecting kitchen plumbing, our inspector will check for:

  • Slow or clogged drains
  • Leaking or rusted out pipes
  • Leaky faucet, including leaking around the handles
  • Proper configuration of the drain lines
  • Working garbage disposal

These are all things you will want to know about while you are still in the contingency period, to avoid costly surprises later.

Poorly Maintained Appliances

Another thing your home inspector will check for is that any installed appliances (cooking appliances, refrigerator, dishwasher, and food waste grinder) are in good working order. Range burners and the oven should be turned on to make sure they all work and get up to temperature. The dishwasher should run a full cycle without leaks. Be aware that if the house has been vacant for a long period, seals can dry out and cause leaks, so be extra cautious.

The freezer and refrigerator should be cool, and not make any abnormal noises. If there is an ice maker, our inspector will check for proper operation. They will also check that the refrigerator interior is free of cracks, holes, and microbial growths, as well as checking that the door gaskets seal properly.

Floor Damage

Even if pipes and faucets seem to be in working order, with no visible signs of leaking, our inspector will pay special attention to the floor of the sink base cabinet for damage. If the area is open, they will also check the condition of the framing and subfloor under the kitchen for signs of current or past leakage or damage.

It is always possible that a previous owner could have fixed an old leak without ever dealing with the damage. If water got into the subfloor in the past, it could have caused rot, meaning you could be facing extensive (and expensive) repairs.

Independent Home Inspections in Central Maryland

When buying a home, you don’t want to run into any costly surprises. At Inspections by Bob, we pride ourselves on providing thorough home inspections all throughout central Maryland by our highly qualified professionals. Already a homeowner? We believe in regular check-ups to maintain the value of your home. Contact us to schedule your appointment today!  

Heating & Cooling Your Home: Traditional AC/Heat Pump vs. Ground Source vs. Hyperefficient

Heating & Cooling Your Home: Traditional AC/Heat Pump vs. Ground Source vs. Hyperefficient

During our home inspections, we often see heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in poor repair that need quick replacement. When this happens, the homeowners or potential buyers ask us what type of system is best.

Gone are the days of needing simply to choose between HVAC manufacturing brands; homeowners now can choose what type of system they want. To help you with this decision, we’re giving you the lowdown on some of the more common home heating and cooling systems on the market today: traditional AC/Heat Pump, ground source, and hyper-efficient.

What Is a Traditional AC/Heat Pump?

A traditional air conditioning system uses refrigerants to transfer heat from inside to the outside in the summer. A heat pump can also transfer heat from outside to inside during the winter. With either of these systems, you will have an outdoor component (the condenser) and an indoor component (the air handler and evaporator).

Pros:

Some of the positives of replacing your old system with a traditional AC or Heat Pump system include:

  • Lower start-up cost
  • More familiar operation
  • Easier to find installers and repair contractors
  • Works with existing ductwork

Cons:

This familiar system isn’t without its drawbacks, however, including:

  • Less energy-efficient
  • More expensive in monthly energy costs
  • More likely to need frequent repairs
  • External coils and other parts require routine cleaning
  • Less capable of handling extreme temperatures

What Is a Ground Source System?

Ground Source systems take advantage of the relatively steady temperature of the earth (around 55 degrees Fahrenheit) to heat and cool your home. Refrigerant circulates the same for a conventional air conditioning system, but rather than having an outdoor coil, the refrigerant travels through underground pipes.

Pros:

Some of the benefits to a ground source system include:

  • Lower monthly operating cost
  • Increased energy efficiency
  • Easier to maintain a steady temperature
  • Lower risk of frequent repairs
  • Great for new builds

Cons:

That new geothermal system does have some negatives, including:

  • Higher initial investment (usually around $20,000 for the equipment, plus cost of drilling the wells)
  • Harder to find installers and repair contractors

What Is a Hyper-Efficient System?

Hyper-efficient heating and cooling systems, also known as zoned heating or mini-splits, are the newest kids on the block. Similar in construction and operation to traditional AC systems, they use enhanced compressor systems to heat and cool the air. Each room has its own unit, so there’s no need for ductwork and you only heat or cool the rooms you want, rather than the whole house. The outdoor compressor can usually serve multiple indoor units.

Pros:

There are several benefits to hyper-efficient heating and cooling systems, including:

  • Efficient in temperatures much lower than conventional systems
  • No need for ductwork
  • Heat or cool only the rooms you want
  • Better energy efficiency
  • Lower monthly energy bills
  • Lower cleaning and maintenance costs
  • Easy to retro-fit existing construction

Cons:

Hyper-efficient heating and cooling systems have some drawbacks, including:

  • Higher initial investment
  • Fewer installers and maintenance technicians available
  • Not as cost-effective in moderate climates
  • Visible equipment in every room

So, Which System Is Better?

Determining which heating and cooling system is best for your home comes down to a variety of factors, and will vary from person to person.

What’s important is that you weigh all the costs (initial and long-term), balance the positives with the negatives, and make the best choice for you and your family. There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but consulting with a contractor can help you make a more informed decision.

Don’t just replace an older existing system with one of the same size. Newer systems can give just as much heating and cooling from a smaller unit. Most systems installed are typically larger than they need to be, which can lead to difficulties with controlling humidity levels during both summer and winter.

If your AC or Heat Pump is more than 10-12 years old, there is also the chance it could be using R-22 refrigerant, which can no longer be manufactured. This drives up the cost of repairing these older systems, so check the data plate (which is typically on the outdoor unit) to see whether your present unit uses it. Newer units use R-410A refrigerant.

Independent Home Inspections in Central Maryland

No matter what system you choose, make sure you’re hiring a reputable company who will complete the project properly and safely. When in doubt, give Inspections by Bob a call and we’ll check out that HVAC or geothermal system in one of our home inspections! Schedule yours today!