One of the things that makes buying a house stressful is the fear that something will break down just after moving in. The range won’t heat up, the boiler will start leaking, or the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment will refuse to work, leaving a major hole in the household budget. You can’t predict the future, but the following tips will give homebuyers an idea of what to expect from a homes HVAC equipment.

Visually inspect the equipment

Furnaces, boilers and air conditioning units are usually hidden away in a basement or utility area. Does the equipment look like it is in good condition? Is it making odd noises? You probably won’t be able to make an accurate assessment of the system based only on how it looks, but you may notice something that concerns you. Be sure to discuss the issues with a home inspector. You can also hire an HVAC technician to perform an inspection of the equipment before you write an offer.

Ask about past maintenance and repairs

Heating and cooling equipment need maintenance in order to operate properly and efficiently. It would be beneficial to ask about past maintenance, especially if you show interest in the house. Sometimes, HVAC technicians leave behind a dated job ticket when they service an air conditioner, boiler, furnace or heat pump. It may be attached to the unit or posted nearby and tells the next technician what has been done to the system. Job tickets are essentially a mini-maintenance record. Check them for frequent repairs, especially if they involve big-ticket items like blower motors or compressors. A few large repairs on an older system could mean trouble in the future.

Ask about the system’s age

HVAC equipment has a finite lifespan. Once the system is about 15 years old, it should be replaced. While many air conditioners, heat pumps, furnaces, and boilers can work well longer than 15 years, especially if they are well maintained, energy regulations and advances in technology make newer equipment much more energy efficient, and therefore much more cost efficient than older models.

Don’t Forget Ducts and Insulation

While the furnace and AC are the big ticket items, in a forced-air system the duct work is just as important. The ducts carry warm and cold air through the house, so it’s critical that they be free of leaks. Look for condensation, loose connections, and gaps in any visible ductwork. Another crucial factor to your HVAC efficiency is insulation. Ask the homeowners what type of insulation the home has, and take a look in the attic yourself if it’s accessible. When you’re touring the house, be aware of any drafts or rooms that feel hotter or cooler than the rest of the home.