Home Buyer’s Guide to HVAC


Buying a home is a huge part of the living American dream—it’s also one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll ever make. It’s likely you have a solid idea of what you’re looking for in terms of location, neighborhood, price range, etc. You’ve probably seen a ton of features in some homes that fit the bill. Before you’re sold by the new roof, refinished hardwoods, high-end countertops or sprawling back yard, make sure you take a good look at the home’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.

HVAC is responsible for providing the comforts and conveniences we all have come to expect at home—but it’s at a cost. According to the Department of Energy, heating and cooling accounts for nearly half of your home’s energy consumption making it a major factor in your home’s footprint and one of the top contributors to your monthly energy bills. One of the most powerful, expensive systems, it’s wise to give HVAC the attention it deserves when considering a new home purchase. 

Of course, there are various pieces of equipment that make up a residential HVAC system. Upon looking at a home, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the type of HVAC equipment installed. These include…

Furnace—The most common type of home heating equipment, furnaces are fueled by electricity, natural gas, propane or oil. New, standard efficiency furnaces are inexpensive and offer an average lifespan of 15 years. Find out about furnace efficiency ratings now. 

Heat pump—A slightly more expensive alternative to furnaces, heat pumps are highly energy efficient and save on energy. A heat pump pulls outdoor air inside and heats or cools it depending on the thermostat setting. Units last on average 15 years. Learn why heat pumps are the most efficient equipment for heating and cooling.

Boilers—Fueled by electricity, natural gas, propane or oil, boilers are unlike traditional heating systems in that they heat water as opposed to air. Expensive to install and maintain, boilers withstand the test of time often lasting up to 30 years. Common issues with boiler systems.

Central air conditioning—Quiet, reliable and energy efficient, central A/C is the most common method of home cooling. Split central air systems include a condenser, compressor, fan and indoor unit that’s connected to the heat pump or furnace. Most central air conditioners last up to 20 years. Air conditioning myths busted! 

Factors that play into HVAC equipment reliability + performance 

Whether you’re seeking the high efficiency equipment, or just want the assurance of knowing you’re getting a home equipped with a decent, reliable system, there are several factors you’ll want to gain a solid understanding. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the system type and equipment involved talk with a professional who knows their way around HVAC. If your realtor isn’t knowledgeable, see if you can hire an HVAC specialist to accompany you to go over the following…

  • Capacity of system—system size in comparison to size of home
  • Age of system
  • Type of equipment/efficiency ratings
  • Maintenance history
  • Quality of installation

Find out more about how these factors play into HVAC equipment life!

Although some of these factors are out of your hands, you can still learn what to identify when looking at a home’s HVAC system. Real estate agents and sellers know that negotiating things like HVAC repairs and replacements are an expected part of the home buying (and selling) process—so it never hurts to ask for what you want. Ultimately, if your request is denied, it’s up to you if the condition of the HVAC system is worth taking a gamble, and potentially paying for out of pocket.

Once you’ve closed on your new home it doesn’t mean you’re off the hook in regards to maintaining your HVAC system. Dominion Service Company suggests system tune-ups be performed twice a year, once before heating season, and again before cooling season. Our comprehensive Ultimate Precision tune-up will ensure your system is operating reliably, efficiently and safely all year round.

For more information on what to look for in an HVAC system when buying your next home, or to schedule a seasonal tune-up, contact us today at 800-832-0758.