Air Conditioning and
Pre-Purchase Home Inspections
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Air conditioning refers to the system that cools the home, building, condo, or co-op during warm, humid summer months. Not all homes have air conditioning. If a home is in a relatively cool area such as the south shore of Long Island, it may rarely need air conditioning. Warmer areas such as Westchester, or areas with limited ventilation (such as an office or apartment in a high rise building) need air conditioning to remain comfortable. Densely populated areas like New York City depend on air conditioning to make offices and apartments habitable.
Even a properly functioning air conditioning system will leave some areas of the building relatively warm and other areas relatively cool. In addition, the airflow associated with an air conditioning system makes some people feel cold.
Central Air Conditioners
With a central air conditioning system, the compressor is typically outside the building. For suburban homes, the air conditioning compressor is usually located on the side or behind the house. In buildings (including condo and co-op buildings), the compressor may be located on the roof.
The refrigerant is circulated through the building and into a device called an air handler (sometimes called a fan coil unit). The air handler can be located in the basement, attic, or a utility room. The air inside the building is circulated through the air handler, and over coils containing the refrigerant. This chilled and dehumidified air cools the interior of the building.
Room Air Conditioners
A room air conditioner contains both the compressor and air handler components. Typically, one needs one air conditioner per room. In some cases, a room air conditioner will cool a larger area, such as a large open living room, dining room, and kitchen combination. A single room air conditioner may also cool a smaller, multi-room condo or co-op unit. With a room air conditioner, the area of the room near the unit is usually cooler than other areas of the room. In addition, room air conditioners can be much noisier than central air conditioners.
A room air conditioner can also be a split system. Essentially, the compressor and air handler portion are split, so the compressor can be mounted outside and the air handler can be mounted anywhere in the room. Some split systems have multiple air handlers with a single compressor. Many split systems also provide heat. Split systems are generally quieter than room air conditioners. These characteristics makes a split system air conditioning ideal for a room which has different heating and cooling characteristics than the rest of the home or building.
PTAC units (Packaged Terminal Air Conditioner) are found in hotel and motel rooms, and in new or renovated condo or co-op apartments. They are similar to through-the-wall room air conditioners, except that they typically provide both heating and cooling. PTAC units are generally quieter than room air conditioners. PTAC units could have compressors for cooling, or there could be an external cooling tower circulating chilled water. The PTAC unit's heat can come from an internal heat pump, an internal gas burner, or circulated water from an external boiler.
Heat pumps are essentially reversible air conditioners. During the warm, humid summer months, a heat pump acts as an air conditioner and provides cooling. During colder months, the heat pump essentially cools the outside air, and the heat generated by the cooling process is used to heat the home, condo, or co-op unit.
Heat pumps are generally not well suited for larger buildings, unless a heat pump is provided in each space. This is usually done in the form of a PTAC unit. Some newer condos and co ops have a heat pump that is designed for installation in the building. These heat pumps use an outside vent, and are designed to be located within a condo or co-op apartment.
Heat pumps depend on electricity to operate. When the outdoor temperature is near freezing, an internal electric heater is needed to provide heat. This can make a heat pump expensive to operate during the cold winter months.
Air conditioning systems are best evaluated when the weather is hot and humid. Concerns such as an air conditioning system that is old and outdated can be checked year round. If it is cool during the inspection, the system should be rechecked on a hot, humid day if possible. If an air conditioning system has been turned off for the season, it may have to be serviced before activation.
Attic ventilation needs to be considered when evaluating the air conditioning system. Insufficient attic ventilation can cause increased cooling costs. A thermostatically controlled attic fan can reduce the cost of cooling a home.
An air conditioner may have been added after the building was constructed. The addition of the air conditioner may have created a potentially hazardous electrical condition. Our Licensed Engineers evaluates whether the electric service is sufficient for the air conditioners.
During the inspection, the Heimer Engineering℠ examines, analyzes, and/or reports on (as appropriate based on the building):
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Heimer Engineering℠ Standards of PracticeThe Licensed Engineers of Heimer Engineering℠ substantially adhere to the InterNACHI® Code of Ethics, to Subpart 197-4 of the State of New York Code of Ethics and Regulations for Home Inspectors, and to the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE®) Code of Ethics. All State of New York Licensed Engineers are also bound by New York State Education Law Article 145.
Heimer Engineering℠ Code of Ethics
The Licensed Engineers of Heimer Engineering℠ substantially adhere to the InterNACHI® Standards of Practice and the ASHI® Standards of Practice. In the event of a conflict, the Licensed Engineers of Heimer Engineering℠ use Engineering judgment to decide what standard or Engineering principle takes precedence.
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Heimer Engineering℠ performs home inspections, building inspections, condominium inspections, and co-op inspections in the State of New York. We do not perform inspections or recommend Inspectors or Engineers outside of the State of New York. We provide Licensed Professional Engineer consultation services including hurricane and storm damage and damage from adjoining construction. Expert witness services are provided regarding playground injuries, parking lot, walkway, and stairway slip, trip, and fall.
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