Up until the early 1900s, no American home had air conditioning. As a matter of fact, the technology hadn’t even been invented yet! Although homes did have heating, they didn’t have a reliable, convenient, efficient means of spreading heated or room-temperature air throughout them.
In the mid-1900s, modern HVAC units began spreading across the United States like wildfire. Over time, they became more affordable and more widely available. Today, upwards of 90 percent of new homes constructed in the United States come equipped with full-fledged central heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.
What’s So Special About HVAC Units And Systems?
HVAC systems are also called central heating, cooling, and ventilation systems. The word central comes from the fact that homes equipped with these systems only have one means of changing the temperature in those homes.
The alternatives to HVAC systems include space heaters, radiators, old-school furnaces, wood stoves, firepits, wall-mounted air conditioners, box fans, radiating fans, and the like. These alternatives aren’t popular among modern homeowners because they’re more difficult to keep up with, they burn energy like crazy compared to their HVAC contemporaries, and they take up valuable floor space, not to mention several other common concerns with these appliances.
HVAC systems are simply the most desired form of heating, air conditioning, and ventilation in modern homes, apartments, and other residential units.
Landlords Need To Pay Special Attention To HVAC Systems
Although statistics vary, the average entry-level HVAC unit costs somewhere between $4,000 and $8,000. Larger homes routinely require HVAC units that cost upwards of $10,000.
HVAC systems also require the installation of flexible, insulated ducts throughout walls, ceilings, and floors. Costing anywhere between $30 and $75 per foot of ducts laid, the cost of purchasing ducts and having them installed in the average person’s home can range anywhere from $1,000 to upwards of $5,000.
Don’t forget the cost of air filters, vents, thermostats, and other necessary parts of modern heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.
Altogether, the cost of the average home’s HVAC system can range from $5,000 to more than $15,000. Since central air systems are sought after by so many renters and homeowners in today’s housing market, landlords need to maintain the function of their rental properties’ HVAC systems.
Let’s cover some basic information that every landlord needs to know about dealing with their rental homes’ central heating and air conditioning networks.
Some Places Require Rental Homes To Adhere To A Minimum Temperature Requirement
States and localities across the Midwest, Pacific Northwest, and Northeast enforce laws that require landlords to make sure that their tenants’ homes are heated above a minimum temperature all throughout the calendar year.
If we take New York City, New York, for example, we’ll find that all apartments and homes are required to be heated to a minimum of 55 degrees Fahrenheit from Halloween to the last day of May. San Francisco, which has a warmer climate than New York City, makes landlords maintain the temperature minimum of 68 degrees Fahrenheit from 5:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and from 3:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. throughout all 365 days of the year.
As a landlord, you’re unquestionably responsible for maintaining these temperature requirements. You could face fines, fees, penalties, and other punishments as a result of not adhering to relevant local and state laws.
Ventilation Is Also Your Responsibility
Homes without room and ceiling fans can suffer from permanent cosmetic and structural damage like infestations of ravaging pests, widespread mold colonies inside walls and floors, and chronic wood rot. Further, tenants generally need circulating air to remain comfortable.
You shouldn’t face many roadblocks in the way of keeping your tenants properly ventilated. After all, almost all homes in the United States have ceiling fans that satisfy ventilation requirements set out by various state and local governments across the nation.
You Might Not Be On The Hook For Air Conditioning
In most places, air conditioning isn’t required to be installed in rental homes. This means that neither wall-mounted air conditioners and HVAC systems are required in modern rental units. Even though you will generally be required to provide ventilation and heating for tenants, you should be able to slide through the cracks even if you don’t grant them such privileges.
Keep in mind that tenants whose leases include contractual obligations to maintain working air conditioning throughout the apartments or homes they live in are not responsible for keeping up with air conditioning. Rather, landlords are on the hook for keeping tenants cool.
Filters Probably Aren’t Something That You’ll Be Responsible For
As you probably know, air filters weed out tiny pieces of debris that otherwise would have entered homes’ HVAC units. Over time, the components of these HVAC units get clogged and caged with dirt, dust, and debris. This causes these machines to burn through more electricity than what is necessary, not perform as effectively as they could, and not last as long as units that are well-protected by high-quality air filters that are regularly changed.
Since the cost of failing to regularly replace air filters in HVAC systems ranges in the thousands of dollars over the lifetime of modern HVAC units, you should probably step in and change your rental properties’ air filters as a precautionary measure. Air filters are cheap, so your return on investment will be well worth the cash outlay to buy air filters.
To best preserve the proper function, energy usage, and lifespan of HVAC systems, you should look at air filters’ MERV ratings. Short for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, MERV ratings inform consumers of how good a particular air filter is. You should seek out air filters with MERV ratings of at least 14. The scale of MERV ratings ranges from one to 16. Although higher-rated air filters are more expensive, they’re ideal for preserving the lifespan of whatever HVAC systems that your rental properties are equipped with.
When It Comes To HVAC Maintenance, You Are Largely Free To Negotiate
HVAC maintenance and repair are two tasks that are usually left to professional HVAC technicians and service providers. This is so because most landlords have no idea how to perform these activities. Further, their time is typically better spent doing something else than HVAC work.
As a landlord, you’re free to negotiate whether you or tenants are responsible for maintaining air conditioning, heating, and ventilation appliances and related equipment. If you are willing to put time and effort into preserving the life of your rental properties’ HVAC systems, you’re probably better off leaving such responsibilities in your own hands.
However, if any of your residential units are equipped with HVAC equipment that are in their final years of operation, feel free to pass such responsibilities onto your tenants.