HVAC Considerations When Renovating or Flipping a Home

Written by Posted On Friday, 30 November 2018 13:49
HVAC Considerations When Renovating or Flipping a Home Shutterstock

Whether you’ve bought a fixer-upper with plans to flip it for a nice profit on the real estate market or you’re upgrading your older home into a modern oasis, you should be aware that the HVAC system is a high-priority consideration for any real estate project.

Putting in a considerable amount of thought about how to handle this part of your home as you plan out your project will save you a big headache — and potentially a lot of funds — down the road. Before you decide whether to repair, remove, or replace your HVAC system, consider the following:

Plan Ahead or Pay Later

You have plenty of work ahead of you, so the last thing you want to do is create extra tasks for yourself. Since HVAC updates often require drywall to be cut away and removed, you should plan for HVAC replacements as you are performing other home renovations. Reconfiguring ductwork while walls are accessible or opened makes more sense than doing it after the renovation is complete.

Additionally, you ought to take the time now to determine how your current HVAC system handles concerns like humidity levels, indoor air quality, and carbon monoxide, and whether it will continue to hold up after your construction is complete.

Discussing plans with a professional contractor will help illuminate whether you’ve missed any essential steps before you dive into your lengthy remodel or renovation.

Current and Changing Regulations

While your older air conditioner or furnace might have been fine for the era in which it was built, new safety standards and regulations are being enacted all the time. You should take the time to research whether you will need to bring your HVAC system up to code.

For instance, a recently implemented law vastly changed the engineering of commercial air conditioners and heat pumps to increase efficiency, which will require professional HVAC companies to either build systems that meet those new standards or retrofit existing HVAC systems. These regulations will increase the required efficiency once more in 2023 and expand the requirements to include warm-air furnaces as well.

Professional HVAC technicians are aware of the newer requirements and can save you the hassle of replacing your system now instead of in a few years, when the installation would be more time-consuming and less cost-effective.

Space and Layout Modifications

Renovations, remodeling, and flipping endeavors utilize creative design to maximize living or working space, often by rearranging, creating, or removing existing rooms. Even if you aren’t increasing your square footage, changes in layout — such as moved walls, changed partitions, or added windows — will need to be accommodated by an HVAC system that fits your home.

Size Matters

If you are expanding your space, be sure that your HVAC is properly sized to meet the demands of your new “building envelope,” which refers to your location’s windows, doors, and other insulating factors. As you upgrade or change the building envelope — energy-efficient windows, air-sealed crawlspaces, caulked gaps, and whole-house humidifiers are just a few of the more common options — you lessen the overall demand for both heating and cooling. You might need a smaller HVAC system than you initially expected!

Be aware that furnaces or air conditioning systems that are too large for your space will run in shorter, less efficient cycles known as “short cycles,” which causes an uptick in utility costs. Furthermore, short cycling makes your HVAC system work harder to keep you comfortable, and it will wear out sooner than a properly sized HVAC system.

Your Business Needs

If you are a business owner renovating or remodeling a commercial space, consider your customers’ and employees’ needs — an office filled with dozens of people working on computers has vastly different heating and cooling requirements than a fitness studio, for instance.

You might also need to adjust your airflow to correctly export odors generated from spaces such as locker rooms, restrooms, or a kitchen prep station away from customers’ noses.

Never attempt to move, split, or add vents without the assistance of a professional HVAC expert or you risk uneven temperatures, higher heating and cooling costs, vent leaks, and other assorted problems.

The Damage of Dust and Dirt

Dust and dirt are two significant byproducts of the remodeling and renovation processes. Cutting through drywall, wood, tile, and/or sheetrock creates clouds of construction-based dust that will find its way into your home’s pre-existing HVAC system and decrease its efficiency.

Furthermore, all that debris will add wear and tear to your unit, causing long-term damage — not to mention spreading contaminants for months across your space. Once drywall dust gets into your ductwork, it is incredibly hard to remove without professional help.

To prevent such nuisances, clean any and all work areas frequently, and be aware not to sweep piles of dust and dirt into open grates. Try not to run your HVAC system if you don’t need it for comfort, and close off and cover vents in rooms where especially dusty work is being performed. (If you do need your furnace on, you should only close a few vents, not all of them, in order to keep a proper airflow.)

Plastic tarps are effective in isolating one room from the rest of the house; they work best if the area is also maintained at a negative pressure to the rest of the house. Better yet, if the weather allows for it, you should perform the messiest types of work — like cutting, sanding, and sawing — outside the home.

Post-Renovation or Remodel

Check your filters before, during, and after any large-scale project. Grates can be cleaned with a common vacuum cleaner and vent covers can be washed in warm, soapy water, but you should not personally attempt to clean the vents further. A professional HVAC technician will possess the appropriate tools to inspect, clean, repair, and maintain your heating and cooling system to the proper efficiency.

Consider having a full inspection post-renovation to ensure that dust has not built up in your furnace or air conditioner. You’ll thank yourself later for taking care of the cleaning now instead of waiting until mid-summer, when the air conditioning is struggling to keep up with the oppressive heat outside!

Savings Across the Board

Most HVAC inspections are only a few hundred dollars but could save you thousands in heating and cooling costs. Invest in verifying that your system is working at peak efficiency. A total system assessment, as part of an annual home maintenance plan, allows homeowners to become aware of potential issues long before they turn into incredibly expensive repairs.

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Kevin Burns

Kevin Burns is the President of Bob Jenson Air Conditioning in San Diego with over 29 years of experience in the HVAC Field. He has worked in every aspect of the industry and has trained dozens of people. He has a passion for doing what’s right for each home and customer and sets this standard for his entire team.

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