Time to Pull the Plug

By
Home Inspector with JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC HOI 394

Being a home inspector means that I am not an specialist in any one area. Home inspectors are generalist. Now there are some inspectors I know that hold trade licenses and therefore would be considered an expert. That would not be me however.

Old A/C compressor installed in a Connecticut houseSince I am a generalist, I have to be careful not tread into the experts territory unless I am confident in my information. For example with heating and cooling equipment it is generally not wise to call a unit in need of replacement. While a furnace or A/C compressor may in fact be close to a hundred years old and look like it's on life support, if it's working I usually can't call it. The best I can do is inform my client of the condition of the machine, pointing out the issues and giving them as much information as possible. Hopefully I communicate that the old clunker is probably going to cost them lots of money sooner rather than later.

Once in a while the appliance commits suicide.

During a recent inspection on a hot and humid day here in Connecticut I rounded the corner of the house to find an old A/C compressor. Clearly this unit was every day of 30 years and probably then some. Unfortunately the data tag on the unit had long since worn away, so getting a definitive date was not going to be possible.

Looks like a suicide note :)While searching for the manufacture's tag, I open a service door and saw a note written inside with marker on a metal cover.

Temporary repairs made 8-10-10.

Temporary repairs means to me this unit is on life support. The end could come at any time. Once inside I turned on the A/C. The compressor kicked on. The thermostat said the interior of the house was 81 degrees. About two hours later after completing the inspection, it was still 81 degrees.

Time to pull the plug. ------------------------------

 

Posted by

James Quarello
Connecticut Home Inspector
Former SNEC-ASHI President
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC

 ASHI Certified Inspector

To find out more about our other high tech services we offer in Connecticut click on the links below:

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Serving the Connecticut Counties of Fairfield, Hartford, Middlesex, New Haven, Southern Litchfield and Western New London.

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Rainer
162,019
Greg Riley
Prudential AllStar Realtors - Rio Rancho, NM
e-PRO,RECS, Rio Rancho Real Estate

Unfortunately the verbal comments by an inspector can be more damaging the the transaction then the written inspection! I personally believe inspector should keep their opinions and comments to themselves and let the buyer & the Buyer's agent interpret the Inspection report which gives the Model,Serial# and Age and whether it's operating within acceptable standards,,Seller's typically accepeted it as operable when they bought the property and are making nothing on the sale of the property and to expect them to spend 4K to replace an airconditioner that is operable does not seem right either,,just my observation!

Jul 27, 2012 12:13 AM #12
Rainmaker
694,665
Clint Mckie
Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections - Carlsbad, NM
Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586

Hi James,

After two hours of running and it's still 81 degrees in the home ...time to start over. What did the "A" frame look like? Maybe just the compression unit needs to be replaced or a recharge of the system, thus saving a lot of money for the buyers or sellers. The degree differential need to be about 15-22 degrees difference after running about an hour. Time to call in an A?C pro to evaluate the condition and get a recommendation on what to do next.

The A/C did'nt make it on this one. Good call.

Keep up the fine work in Connecticut.

Best, Clint McKie

Jul 27, 2012 12:25 AM #13
Rainmaker
1,079,379
Sharon Alters
Coldwell Banker Vanguard Realty - 904-673-2308 - Fleming Island, FL
Realtor - Homes for Sale Fleming Island FL

James, you gotta love it when you open up and find that note on the unit! AC guy must have been underscoring what he told the owners - that the fix was temporary at best. Lasting two years longer? A bonus.

Sharon

Jul 27, 2012 12:41 AM #14
Ambassador
533,485
Jason Sardi
Auto & Home & Life Insurance throughout North Carolina - Charlotte, NC
Your Agent for Life

I think the band-aid is about to fall off.

Jul 27, 2012 01:04 AM #15
Rainmaker
1,081,000
Gary Frimann, CRS, GRI
Eagle Ridge Realty / Signature Homes & Estates - Gilroy, CA
REALTOR and Broker

James, you must've loved it-- especially on a hot and humid day.  I don't get why somebody would leave the note however...  That was pretty weird.

Jul 27, 2012 01:34 AM #16
Rainmaker
542,419
Jon Quist
REALTY EXECUTIVES TUCSON ELITE - Tucson, AZ
Tucson's BUYERS ONLY Realtor since 1996

Very dangerous to recommend actual replacement of a major HVAC unit. What you could say is that unit is near the end of it's expected life, and be prepared to need a new unit in the near future. Of course if after two hours it won't cool...it's broken, for sure.

Jul 27, 2012 02:00 AM #17
Rainmaker
262,323
Kim & Kristine Halverson
Compass - Santa Monica, CA
Sisters, Realtors

Easy call!  this time.  Kristine

Jul 27, 2012 02:06 AM #18
Rainer
134,121
Laura Murray
Weichert - Silver Spring, MD
Search Montgomery Co., MD for homes www.MDRealEstateOnline.com

So funny, i have never seem something labeled with temporary repairs.  Is that normal?  Interesting to here your perspective on your boundaries.  

Jul 27, 2012 04:00 AM #19
Rainer
284,418
Steven Cook
No Longer Processing Mortgages. - Tacoma, WA

James -- maybe the sellers liked the temperature at 81, and so they thought the unit was still working.

Jul 27, 2012 06:42 AM #20
Rainer
305,808
Brad Rachielles
CENTURY 21 Peak, Ca BRE# 01489453 - Upland, CA
REALTOR, CDPE, Upland, CA

You never know until a specialist looks at it. MAYBE it was a defective thermostat..... but you would have caught that.

Jul 27, 2012 09:41 AM #21
Rainmaker
1,849,872
Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Pull the plug?  Wow, it was plugged in?!

Gotta wonder what the definition of temporary is!  We have had a couple of weeks of 100+ days around here so far this summer!  That might define temporary real well!

Jul 27, 2012 12:17 PM #23
Rainmaker
288,556
Tim Bradley
Contour Investment Properties - Jackson Hole, WY
Commercial Real Estate Expert in Jackson Hole, WY

If it didn't cool below 81 after two hours, something was broken! Call the coroner.

Jul 27, 2012 02:15 PM #24
Rainmaker
1,607,599
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services
Charles Stallions Real Estate Services Inc - Gulf Breeze, FL
Buyers Agent 800-309-3414 Pace and Gulf Breeze,Fl.

At least you don't go outside you scope of expertise, I see alot that do.

Jul 27, 2012 03:26 PM #25
Rainmaker
690,134
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Debbie, Carbon dating LOL! I'll remember that one the next time I see an old appliance. 

Christiansen Team, Thanks! Home inspectors are defined as generalist, we have to be in order to do our jobs. 

Than, I bet their electric bills in the summer were through the roof.

Don, Yes that is a point I try to make with people about older A/C equipment.

Mike, As long as it works, it's usually not on their mind to replace.

Fred, I usually state something similar, but stop short of the evaluation. Not necessary, IMO, unless there is something found to warrant an HVAC specialist.  

Randy, I have found this is often the better approach. I figure my clients are intellligent adults who, given the right info, can make a descision on their own. 

Jul 28, 2012 10:16 PM #27
Rainmaker
690,134
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Bud & Beth, Like this one :)

Richie, Yep.

Chris and Dick, Home inspectors are not seers. A 20 year old unit is aged. If that had been communicated to the buyers, they should not have been so surprised to find the unit had issues. Recommending suing is, IMO, an extreme first step. Also the a/c person saw mold!? Sooooo. Sounds like another case of a contractor playing hero in order to make money for themselves. 

Charlie, Yep.

Greg, People pay us for our opinions and the information we provide. I can appreciate if you have had experiences with inspectors who may not possess a good bedside manner, but again we paid for our opinions. The clients expect this. 

Jul 28, 2012 10:26 PM #28
Rainmaker
690,134
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Clint, I leave the evaluating and repairs to the pros.

Sharon, Exactly! 

Jason, I hate when that happens :)

Gary, Not really. They were emphasizing the point that the unit needed replacing. 

Jon, That is one way to phrase it, not my way however.

Kristine, Yep :)

Laura, No it's very rare to find.

Steve, Silly me, I hadn't thought of that ;)

Brad, In this case it was pretty cut and dry. 

Jul 28, 2012 10:32 PM #29
Rainmaker
690,134
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Erica, It has been the same up here in CT.

Jay, I hope those 100 degree temps are temp - orary. 

Tim, Seems like the right move to me too.

Joyce, That is kind of hard to judge. If someone has the back ground and or knowledge, they may be with in the scope of their expertise. 

Jul 28, 2012 10:36 PM #30
Anonymous
Bob Walstead

Home Inspection is always walking a line between recommending repair and recommending replacement. Since I amnot the professional that is going to do either, I often refer to that professional and often tell my customer which way I think the call will goframpan

Jul 29, 2012 03:12 AM #31
Rainmaker
495,411
Terry McCarley
REMAX Realty Team - Cape Coral FL - Cape Coral, FL
REALTOR, SRES, CDPE - Cape Coral, FL

Sounds like you do an excellent job - so many inspectors are quick to step outside their area of expertise.  A temporary repair was a new one for me - I've never ran into that.

Jul 30, 2012 12:12 AM #32
Rainmaker
690,134
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Bob, Sounds good.

Terry, Pretty rare for sure. 

Aug 03, 2012 09:55 AM #33
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