The AC Doesn't Work; The Heating Doesn't Work - What's The Problem?

By
Home Inspector with Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC
http://actvra.in/HVM

If the thermostat is fine, the circuit breaker is on, there is electricity to the house and the AC doesn't work; the heating doesn't work - what's the problem?

Glancing into the return in the hallway might lend a clue.

We have many years of dust build up.

Now, people think this is because they don't use a good air filter in the HVAC unit, or replace/clean it enough, or whatever.

The problem in this photo is from general dustiness in the house.  If the house isn't vacuumed often, or dusted, dust happens and the dust floats easily.  Of course it will move with air and if air is being sucked into the HVAC returns the dust will accumulate over time.

Dustiness in the house has little to do with the HVAC filter!

LOOKING INTO THIS RETURN, THE ACCUMULATED BUILD UP IS FROM MANY, MANY YEARS OF GENERAL DUSTINESS!

When you see this kind of build up keep in mind, it is not simply "dust."  It also contains millions, billions probably, of living organisms.

Yummie!

What did I expect to find inside the HVAC unit, in this case a heat pump?

More of the same!

Predictably this filter (the washable kind) was so clogged the screen had been getting pulled into the unit.

The electric panel board and the blower inside were similarly caked with dust.

The house is 29 years old.  This is the "replacement" heat pump and is only six years old!

I really don't know how long a heat pump can last without a filter being changed, but could this filter have six years worth of dusty build up?

In the past I have seen the cheap, cardboard filters so caked and the unit actually tried so hard to get air that it collapsed the filter right into the blower!  Not in this case however.  This filter has a plastic frame and isn't that easy to collapse.

One of my (silly) jokes that I grace clients with on home inspections is, "How often once a month should you replace or clean your filter?" 

WOULD IT SURPRISE YOU THAT VERY FEW GET IT AND ANSWER "EVERY SIX MONTHS?" OR "ONCE A YEAR?"

There might be a month here and there when the system isn't used much and the filter does not need replacement.  But once a month is a great rule of thumb!

My recommendation:  while my joke may seem silly, it is intended to be instructive.  Clients don't forget it!  Truly, not cleaning the house and not replacing/cleaning the filter can be an HVAC system killer!  Then, when the system doesn't fire up during a home inspection, the inspector won't have to say, "I think it died from choking on dust!  It needs to be looked at by a licensed professional..."  Well, that guy is in for a good pay day!

 

 

Posted by

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


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Re-Bloggged 3 times:

Re-Blogged By Re-Blogged At
  1. Wallace S. Gibson, CPM 09/19/2012 03:29 AM
  2. Aaron Silverman 09/19/2012 04:28 AM
  3. Evelyn Kennedy 09/19/2012 03:27 PM
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Topic:
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Tags:
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Comments 31 New Comment

Rainmaker
570,044
Bill Gillhespy
Fort Myers Beach Realtor, Fort Myers Beach Agent - Homes & Condos
16 Sunview Blvd

Hi Jay,  I love the pics, the advice and the corny joke !

September 19, 2012 08:25 AM
Rainmaker
555,048
Chris Smith
South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta
Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage

Jay, in the past, in my first home, I went a year and a half without changing my filter.... in the summer my air conditioner stopped working, it was iced up outside... we tracked it down to the reduced airflow from the dirty filter... I now change my filters every month

September 19, 2012 09:07 AM
Rainmaker
65,454
Chicago Real Estate
Goran Utvic
Goran Utvic | Chicagoland Brokers Inc, Chicago IL 60656

Wow I can't believe someone would let it go so long without changing the filter. I disagree with how often you should change the furnace filter though...I say 6 times every half year ;)

September 19, 2012 12:41 PM
Rainmaker
634,747
Evelyn Kennedy
Alameda, Real Estate, Alameda, CA
Gallagher & Lindsey, Alameda, California

Jay:

WOW!  That is a lot of dust.  I hate to see my filter.  Oh, I don't have air conditioning.  Another chore I don't have to deal with.  Great blog with good pictures.

September 19, 2012 03:22 PM
Rainmaker
1,168,390
Jay Markanich
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC

Thanks Gary and I'm glad you do!  Your furnace will smell funny for a while after you first turn it on.

And thank you Bill.  Corny maybe, but the people remember it!

Chris - you tracked it down to exactly the right thing.  Lesson learned, almost the really hard way.

Goran - six of one and half a dozen of the other!

It is Evelyn.  The pictures make it entirely understandable.  And thanks for the reblog!

September 19, 2012 04:52 PM
Rainmaker
1,168,390

Jay Markanich

Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia
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