What Real Estate Investors Should Know About Their HVAC Systems

HVAC systems take a beating in rental properties if they’re not properly maintained. The same is true of HVAC systems in multi-unit apartments. There are many things that landlords can do to protect the HVAC systems on their rental properties. Performing regular maintenance and checking in regularly with tenants is important. If you’re a property owner caring for one or more rental homes, these tips can help.

Replace the Air Filter Every 3 Months (And Make Sure That It Gets Done)

The HVAC air filter cleans the air and prevents the HVAC system from filling up with dust. Air filters help keep dirt out of the air ducts and can prevent the furnace or air conditioner from getting dirty inside. According to the EPA, HVAC air filters should get changed every three months, or more often if the filters are dirty.

Property owners can easily change air filters themselves. Keep an air filter on hand in every rental property. During regular check ins, remove the air filter from the slot near the return air duct, then insert the new air filter. This is easiest to do if each rental property has the same HVAC model. This ensures that the air filter will be located in the same place in each home and each property will require the same air filter.

Many investors/landlords make this task their tenants’ responsibility – and that can work in some instances. However, putting this crucial task in the hands of someone who may not understand why it has to be done (or does not care as much about the property) can be a recipe for trouble in some instances. Landlords should communicate how and why this should be done. Some provide their units with multiple air filters in a storage closet to make this even easier for the tenant. In any case, landlords may want to inspect their properties at least every six months – and should make checking the status of the air filter a part of this inspection.

Clean the Condenser

The air conditioner condenser is the large mechanical unit located on a concrete pad outside the house or on the house. Large buildings may need many air conditioner units. Over time, conditioner condensers will fill with leaves, grass, and debris. This is a problem because air conditioners must release warm air from inside the building or home in order to function. If the inside of the air conditioner condenser is dirty, this makes the air conditioner work harder to do its job.

Cleaning the condenser at least once annually can lengthen the air conditioner’s service life. Here are 9 steps to get the job done. If you’re not sure you can do this effectively or safely, utilizing the skills of a professional may be the best call.

Coil cleaners are available at hardware stores and home improvement centers. These cleaners are helpful if the coils are very dirty or greasy.

Keep Fins Straight

The air conditioner condenser relies on air flow. Condensers come with fins that promote good air flow. Air conditioner fins are easily bent. They can be straightened with a fin comb, found at hardware stores.

If the fins are continually getting bent, this could be a sign that a tenant’s child or pet may be climbing on the unit. Talking to the tenant can help change this behavior and ensure that the fins will stay straight. Landlords must check the fins on each air conditioner condenser at least once annually to ensure that the fins are in good condition.

Protect the Condenser

Condensers get less dirty if they’re protected from leaves and debris. Keeping the area around the condenser free of shrubs, plants and weeds can help. Laying down landscaping rocks around the condenser is a good way to prevent plants from growing in the general vicinity of the condenser.

Talk to tenants who want to plant flowers or shrubs in the yard and instruct them to keep plants away from the condenser. Landowners who mow their own lawn can further protect air conditioner condensers by using a lawn mower with a bag that collects grass as the mower runs.

Inspections Are Crucial for Potential Properties

Getting specialized HVAC inspections before buying a property is an excellent way for property owners to avoid a bad investment. A good HVAC professional can alert landlords to problems during escrow, so the potential property owner can negotiate a better deal with the seller. An investor’s bottom line can be significantly impacted by unforeseen issues.

Know When to Replace

Knowing when to replace a furnace or air conditioner can save money in the long run. Air conditioners last approximately 15 years, while furnaces last about 20. Paying to repair a furnace or air conditioner that is near the end of its service life is usually a waste, because old units need repairs on a regular basis. Older units are also less energy efficient, leading to higher utility costs.

When the time does come to replace an HVAC unit, nothing is more important than buying a quality product. Good quality materials break down less, last longer, and cost less money to run. Property owners can work with a good HVAC professional to ensure that they’re buying a quality product when the time comes.

Work with a Professional

If you’re a landlord who wants to ensure that your HVAC systems are working properly, work with an HVAC professional to have your HVAC systems tuned up at least once annually. Your HVAC professional can also let you know when it’s time to replace your HVAC systems.

For more information about how you can take care of your rental properties, contact Service Champions. Finding and keeping good tenants is much easier when everything works (and works well) within a home, and the HVAC system is a huge part of this equation.

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