Heating And Cooling Is Important When House-Hunting. Here’s Why.
When you’re browsing homes for sale, do you consider how you heat and cool your current house?
HVAC is usually not at the top of anyone’s list when house-hunting. But, it’s worth considering — especially if you’re buying an older home or moving to a new area.
You may not realize how much you enjoy your current setup, and that different types of heating and cooling feel different. They may also cost more or less to run than what you’re used to.
Most homes built in the last 20 years use forced-air HVAC (ductwork and vents) with natural gas. However, that wasn’t always the case.
“If you’re in Upper Township, or Marmora, or Beasley’s Point, these are areas with a lot of vintage homes that are 40, 60, or 100 years old are more,” says Elisa Jo Egan. “When it’s not tract housing or new construction, the heat and air systems are all different.”
As an associate broker with Atlantic Cape Homes, Egan is familiar with all the HVAC options out there for homebuyers. She says you should take stock of what you like — or don’t like — about your current heating and cooling system.
That way, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect if a home for sale has a different setup than what you’re used to.
Heating And Cooling In Older And Vintage South Jersey Homes
Victorians and other vintage South Jersey homes often have radiator heat or baseboard heaters, she notes. There’s usually no ductwork, which means no central air, either.
For some people, that could be a deal-breaker. With summers getting hotter and hotter, more people rely on whole-house cooling than ever before. But, sometimes not having that is a benefit with bigger, older homes.
“If you have a third floor or extra rooms you don’t use that often, then you’re paying a lot to keep them cool with central air,” Egan points out. “In those cases, some people prefer window units because they can pick and choose which rooms to cool.”
Of course, clunky old window units aren’t the only way to pick and choose which rooms to cool. Today, there are more effective and cost-saving, energy-efficient options out there.
Meanwhile, heating has also undergone a lot of changes in South Jersey. We mentioned radiators in century-old homes. And, for a long time, oil heat was widespread. But, as more towns get gas lines, people have converted to natural gas.
Converting is an option if you’re accustomed to natural gas, and the home you love still has oil heat. But, you need to factor that into your budget. And, make sure it’s available in that area.
“If the home has oil and you don’t want that, you have to make sure South Jersey Gas already has lines in the neighborhood,” points out Egan. “Otherwise, you’re not going to buy the house. Or, you’ll consider an electric heat pump or propane.”
To get some more information on how various South Jersey heating and cooling systems stack up against each other, we spoke with Jim Weeden, a sales manager here at Broadley’s.
Types Of Heating And Cooling Systems In South Jersey
Jim talked to us about these common HVAC systems in Cape May and Atlantic Counties:
- Hot Water Heat
- Forced Air
- Heat Pumps
- Mini Splits
Hot Water Heat
According to Jim, hot water heat that uses radiators or baseboards is probably the best way to heat your home. “It doesn’t dry the air because you’re not moving the air and running it across a heat exchanger,” he explains.
Instead, each unit warms the air that’s in the room. As a result, you get very warm heat throughout the room. The air has more humidity in it — a big deal in the winter when the cold air is naturally very dry.
Forced air heating, which uses ductwork and vents, is likely the most common HVAC setup in homes built over the last few decades. A significant advantage over radiators is that you can get central air using the ductwork as well.
However, you won’t get the same quality of heat as you do with hot water. And, the air in your home will be especially dry.
Cold winter air is naturally less humid than warm air in the summer. But, a forced-air system will heat it without adding humidity, so it becomes unnaturally dry.
Today, variable-speed motors in some higher-end models provide better humidity. And, they’re more energy-efficient. Or, pair your heater with a whole-house humidifier.
Oil heat isn’t as popular as it used to be in South Jersey. Back when few towns had gas lines, most homes had an oil tank for heat. Today, however, South Jersey gas serves more neighborhoods than ever. And, Jim recommends avoiding oil if you can.
“Oil is dirty, low-efficiency, and requires a lot of maintenance,” he said.
It’s currently expensive, and at best, most oil heaters have around an 85 percent AFUE efficiency rating. You lose 15 percent of the oil you use. Modern gas heaters, on the other hand, are rated around 98 percent.
You can convert from oil to gas as long as South Jersey Gas runs lines in your neighborhood. But, unless you have a very new furnace, Jim recommends buying a new heater altogether. The conversion doesn’t add much in the way of efficiency with an older model.
Propane is like oil heat in that you get it delivered. But, it’s much more efficient and less expensive. So, in neighborhoods that still don’t have gas heat yet, it’s a better option than oil.
However, while it’s almost the same as natural gas, it’s more expensive per gallon. But, you use less of it. And, you can use the same furnace for gas or propane, so you retain your efficiency.
Jim points out the differences between ducted electric heat pumps and the ones you get with ductless mini splits. Ducted heat pumps are much less efficient than ductless. And, they use ductwork and vents just like natural gas furnaces and forced-air systems.
A heat pump provides both warmth and air conditioning. But while cooling is never a problem, it doesn’t work all that well once the temperature drops under 30 degrees.
The system has backup heating strips inside the house for radiant electric heat when it gets that cold. They do the job, Jim says, “but the electric meter spins off the wall.”
When it comes to heat pump systems, says Jim, “Ductless is a different breed.” Here, you use air handlers in each room to circulate the air. And, the heat pumps are much more efficient.
They have Inverter or variable-speed technology. “It’s like a dimmer switch,” Jim explains. When you only need a little bit of heat or cooling, it runs in low-power mode and maintains a steady temperature.
Once again, these offer heat and air conditioning. So, you’ll see homes with radiator heat, or that don’t have ductwork add mini splits, at least for cooling.
Then, you can upgrade to a Hyper Heat model that keeps you warm even in subzero temperatures. They’re more expensive than most other options, but in 2021 you can get up to $2,000 in rebates from New Jersey Clean Energy.
Heating And Cooling Near Cape May And Atlantic Counties
If you have any questions or concerns about the heating and cooling in your home — or the one you want to buy — in or around Cape May or Atlantic County, call or email us here at Broadley’s!
We’ve served the area for more than a century and are happy to help you make your new or current home as comfortable as possible.