Heating in the Home, What to Look for When Buying a Home

By: Eric Badgely

Does the home you plan to buy have sufficient sources of heat? Maybe it does and maybe it does not. Heating problems are common in older homes and, surprisingly enough, in new homes as well. A few of the most common problems are described below.

When buying a home, either an older one -- or surprisingly enough even a new one -- something you cannot take for granted is that it will have sufficient sources of heat. This might surprise you, especially with new construction, but the explanation is below.

In older houses, where heating problems are more common, there might be a single space heater installed in one room yet the device is expected to heat the entire home. The standard definition of sufficient heat states that every livable room (not including bathrooms, closets, halls) must have a source of heat. Due to the common use of space heaters, or missing or damaged supply ducts, this condition of insufficient heat is often found in the older home.

With brand new homes, very often, heat ducts are part of the plan and in place but they do not operate. You might, logically, ask why. Almost always, the causes of non-functioning heat supply registers in the new home involve heat ducts that someone forgot to connect into the system; ducts that have not been adequately fastened and came loose under the house; or someone has been working near flex ducts and crushed them so it is impossible for heat to pass through them.

In light of this common problem of insufficient heat, when buying new homes or older homes, it makes sense to check the heating system. This test can be done by turning on the heat source, such as the forced-air furnace, and then feeling for heat at the heat supply registers. An easier way to do it is to point a simple laser thermometer at the heat supply registers while the furnace is running. If the home has electric heat, such as baseboard heaters, the buyer is advised to test these units prior to assuming that the home is sufficiently heated.

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