Today, I wanted to write a little about some of the systems people have in their homes and how to identify the age of these systems properly as well as provide some thoughts on budgeting. I think some folks tend to think that they will just find out about it from the home inspection. This is not always the best plan for a variety of reasons and also too lengthy of a discussion for just one blog post. Other’s simply rely on the information provided by the listing agent’s marketing material. Agents have a responsibility to exercise honesty but that does not mean that the information they are provided from their clients is correct.
What if part of your agent’s routine when showing you a house was to make sure to verify that information for you for each system the agent could access? That would be pretty valuable and helpful right? Well, if you are not currently working with an agent then I would be remiss if I did not tell you that I try to remember to do that for my folks, but if you are working with another agent or are simply just trying to figure out ages of systems on your own I still want to help! Below is a description of how I go about obtaining the information for my clients.
There really is not a whole lot to this process. You simply need to get the make and the serial number for the particular unit of the home’s system in question and then there is a great website developed by some good folks that will help you decipher the number. You can visit “Building Intelligence Center” (https://www.building-center.org/) and they have indexes for HVAC systems as well as water heaters. The process I outline here is going to be for HVAC systems but it is the exact same process for a water heater.
For the first example we will take a relatively easy HVAC brand to decipher, Goodman. Goodman’s serial numbers should always be 10 numbers with NO letters. For Goodman the first two numbers represent the year and then the 3rd and 4th digit represent the month of manufacture. So in the photo below you will see in the top right corner the serial number 1105654978 which means this unit was from May of 2011. You can see the example given on the Building Intelligence Center website at the following link: https://www.building-center.org/goodman-hvac-age/
The example below is from my own home. This example exhibits a typical HVAC split system where there are two units running the job of heating and cooling your home. This is another Goodman system. The first picture is of the compressor (the outdoor unit) and often we see that piece of equipment located outside near the rear or side of a house. The second picture is the blower, evaporator coils and heat pump (depending on the system this could be the furnace part too for gas forced hot air) and is usually found inside the structure of the house. Occasionally, these units will be together in what is known as a packaged unit (another discussion for another day). The compressor’s serial number is 1810044898 which translates to October of 2018 and I know this to be true because it was installed shortly after Halloween when my old oil boiler decided it had had enough. The heat pump, or inside unit, has a serial number of 1807465096 which you should now know translates to July of 2018.
Goodman Compressor (outdoor)
Goodman Heat Pump (indoor unit)
The above scenario brings me to a point that is worth mentioning. Do not assume that if you have found the year from the serial number of one of the two units that the second will be identical. Sometimes people only replace one unit in an effort to save money. Do your due diligence.
Here is another example I found in my photo log that is a bit more tricky. Here we have a Rheem with the serial number of HM21875844. So obviously this is going to be different from the Goodman we learned about above. On the website they give you 7 different styles for Rheem and none of them seem to be exactly like that one but after looking at them all common sense can tell you that it is not from 1944 or 1958 so context clues let you know that it was the 21st week of 1987 which is May/June.
It is true that sometimes on some units they will put a date of manufacture which is awesome but it does not always work that way. Below here is a Carrier unit that has a date of manufacture but also a serial number. As you can see the Date of Manufacture says August 2012. The serial number above that date is 3212E16349. This matches up with Carrier Style 1 from the website mentioned above. Style 1 here says the 32nd week of 2012 which was August 6th through August 12th.
All of this information ultimately will help you budget and plan for the unexpected things that come with home ownership. Most newer systems tend to have a typical useful life of between 10 and 20 years if you are lucky. I tend to follow the rule of 10 to 15 years myself. If you know before you buy a house that the heat pump is 15 years old then you should realize that it is highly likely that it will need to be replaced sometime soon and if you cannot negotiate that into the deal, either at the offer phase or during the inspection period, then you will need to either be prepared with a home warranty or with savings. Depending on the system and the situation this could be anywhere between $5,000 and $10,000 (in another post this year we will try and clean some of these budget numbers up a little bit but this works for a conservative take for now).
So what are the takeaways from this long post? Your resource for verifying the age of your systems is the Building Intelligence Center (https://www.building-center.org/). Or if you want to buy a house and do not want to worry about having to figure this all out please do not hesitate to give me a call and I will have you covered!
Have a great weekend and thanks for reading.