What You Need to Know About Your HVAC System in a New Home

When you are building a new home, there are many decisions to make before construction begins including for your HVAC system. Your air conditioning and heating system is your home’s largest consumer of energy such as electricity and natural gas or propane.

The #1 issue we confront after being called out to diagnose an HVAC system in a new home: the improper installation of an HVAC system. When equipment breakdown, homeowners look to the manufacturer’s warranty.  Unfortunately, there are a few reasons why that doesn’t always work out.

This is why it is good to know a few things about your HVAC investment in your new home.

Experience of Technicians Installing Your Central Air

Even the best home builders often use teams of HVAC subcontractors to install central air and heat in new homes. What they may not tell you is that often some of these subcontractors are unlicensed but working under the license and supervision of a colleague. This is why sometimes due to timelines, oversight can be great and sometimes less so.

Multiple inspectors may not see every phase of installation (rough-in, final, and startup phases), so some things can get missed.

You might suspect that there may be an HVAC system installation problem if you experience these symptoms in your home:

  • Your brand-new heating and cooling system requires repairs multiple times in less than two years.
  • Surprise breakdowns continue to occur.
  • Your home is just not comfortable and nothing seems to fix it.

Repairs we typically see from new homes where there are installation problems with the HVAC system can include:

  • Rust starting on the plenum within the first year is a bad sign. The plenum is a box that distributes conditioned air throughout your ductwork. Rust can indicate a problem with humidity or a significant air leak.
  • An improperly-leveled indoor evaporator unit indoors causes drain and humidity issues.
  • Sheetrock covering air register boxes means that conditioned air isn’t getting into your home. The fix is to cut through the sheetrock to make space for proper air distribution. If it isn’t done, you can find a mold/mildew issue several years down the road.

If an HVAC system fails because of improper installation, the manufacturer will not honor the warranty. This is why we advise partnering up with your own home inspector to prevent some of these problems. Texas House Check headquartered in Katy, Texas is a vendor we recommend.

One time, we were investigating why a brand-new home was not cooling right. We went through every check, and the heating and cooling system was performing to spec. Still, it could not keep up with the heat. We got our infrared thermometer and discovered the problem: no insulation in the walls or ceiling. No insulation meant that the heat load for the home was much higher than expected.  The fix wasn’t to replace the HVAC system; the fix was to replace the missing insulation. This sort of thing is fairly rare in most new homes we see, but it can happen. In this case, we gave the homeowner information she could use to seek a remedy from the homebuilder. Ultimately, the homebuilder was apologetic and made arrangements to add the insulation. The more eyes you can put on your home (in terms of inspections) as it is being built, the better off you will be and you will lower the chances of mistakes or oversights.

Sometimes the installers put in heating and cooling systems without regard to how they will be serviced in the future. How do we replace a motor if the furnace access door faces the wall or a roof-supporting beam? In one case, we had to uninstall a furnace and relocate it to make a repair and for future maintenance. Cutting through the wall wasn’t a viable option.

Contractor-Grade HVAC Systems

Many new home builders install contractor-grade HVAC equipment. What this means is that the HVAC equipment that is typically installed may not be top of the line or the most energy efficient that is available. This is fine in many cases, but if you were wanting a multi-speed or variable-speed HVAC system with a high SEER, which rates a system’s energy efficiency, you will need to ask for that equipment in advance and it will likely be an upgrade.

Contractor-grade equipment is on par with how rental cars are: They work fine for the application, but the bells or whistles may be missing. The systems they choose may not be the premium line and be ultra-efficient unless you specifically request it.

One upgrade you can add to a heating and cooling system is to install a smart thermostat if you don’t have one already. A smart thermostat can better control and optimize your heating and cooling system’s performance. It can give you more ways to watch your energy consumption, and you can control it from your smartphone making it possible to turn it up or down while you are away from home.

Warranty Service

After a new home is delivered, home builders give at least a one-year warranty on the home which covers parts and labor. The Texas Residential Construction Liability Act is something to educate yourself about if you run into issues with your home.

We have found it rare to find a home builder who will register your HVAC equipment’s serial numbers within the manufacturer’s required timeline of 30-60 days after closing. This important step can be the difference between a 5-year and 10-year warranty on HVAC parts and equipment if filed on time. It is one of the reasons we recommend that homeowners document their HVAC equipment serial numbers. We advise that homeowners either call the manufacturer’s customer care line or go online to register the equipment to ensure that essential paperwork is submitted. Ask your builder who the installing HVAC subcontractor was so you have that information handy. Once this is complete, your manufacturer’s warranty will be in place if it is ever needed.

Where to Register Your HVAC Equipment

You can register your equipment at the links below or visit https://registermyunit.com. If your brand isn’t listed, do a search for “{brand} warranty registration” to find out where to register your new heating and cooling purchase. If you have a Ruud® system and you are interested in a more robust warranty, you can talk to a Ruud Pro Partner™ and ask them about a 10-year labor warranty that can be purchased after the fact. (Remember: A manufacturer’s warranty does not include the cost of labor.)

If your HVAC system is not registered with the manufacturer by the home builder or yourself, the extended warranty opportunity is lost. Homeowners who aren’t aware of this get really upset to learn this after the fact. This is why we are sharing this information with as many homeowners as we can since it is not common knowledge.

Another trend we have come across recently is that most HVAC manufacturers today are not transferring their extended warranties when homes change to new ownership during that time. In the past, they charged a nominal fee to transfer it to the new owner.

It can be helpful to find a long-term HVAC partner who can handle routine maintenance, inspections, and repairs. They can fulfill warranties from any dealer even though it isn’t really a money-maker for them. Keep in mind that warranty service will not include maintenance issues such as clogged drains, installation errors, or the cost of labor. It will, however, cover the cost of the failed part which can represent a significant savings.

Some new homes come with home warranties. We have prepared some pros and cons to using a home warranty to repair or replace your heating and cooling system.

HVAC Tune-Ups & Inspections

Sometimes a new home needs its central air and heat adjusted right after move-in to optimize comfort. We have adjusted air vents, cut out air vents that were sheetrocked over, connected important hoses that were unconnected, turned on the power to heating and cooling systems, and even educated homeowners how to properly operate their HVAC system.

If you have a room that isn’t cooling or heating properly, we can do a quick inspection to see what the problem might be and get your HVAC system on the right track. We can also arm you with the knowledge you need so you can do some of the essential maintenance on your own. We still recommend that homeowners have their HVAC system professionally serviced twice a year — in the fall and in the spring.

We also can provide a more extensive inspection of your HVAC system to determine if there are any lingering installation issues. We are asked for a more extensive HVAC inspection that includes a written report with recommendations about what we find when 1) homeowners are either buying a home or 2) they have suspicions that their heating and cooling system isn’t working as well as it should.

We Can Help Keep Your HVAC System Running

Terry’s A/C & Heating, serving the Southwest Houston. Fort Bend County and surrounding communities including Cinco Ranch, Cross Creek, Westheimer Lakes, Jordan Ranch, Seven Lakes, Firethorne, and Tamarron neighborhoods, is an experienced, family-owned residential and light commercial HVAC company that wants to keep you comfortable all year long. Whether your home is new or well-loved, call Summer Terry at 281-495-7830 to schedule an appointment today.

We are a flat-rate company and do not work on commission. This incentivizes us to use your time and our time wisely! Find out how we are different from other HVAC companies around Richmond, Texas, and why so many customers give us five-star reviews.

Header Image Source: Shutterstock.com/Anne Kitzman