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  1. #1
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    Default Barry Stone Article

    This wouldn't be the first Barry Stone column I don't agree with. In particular, the part I bolded in his response. I know units with scroll compressors can be run when colder but his statement is pretty much a blanket statement for all AC systems.

    Thoughts?

    Home inspector omits major detail from report

    DEAR BARRY:
    We bought our home in the winter time, so our home inspector did not test the air conditioner. He said the outside temperature was too cold to run the system. But that left us with an undisclosed problem. The summer arrived with 100-degree temperatures, and we found that our air conditioner did not work.

    The contractor we called said the system had not been fully connected when it was installed, but this was not reported to us during the home inspection. Is our home inspector liable for failing to report this problem? --Kathy

    DEAR KATHY: Your home inspector could be liable, depending on what he did or did not say in his report. At the same time, there remains the issue of whether or not to test an A/C system in cold weather. So let's take a look.

    Many home inspectors refuse to test air conditioners when temperatures are below 60 degrees. This is because A/C systems can be damaged if they are operated during cold weather.

    However, damage is unlikely to occur if the system is briefly operated for purposes of testing and inspecting. Prolonged use is what causes damage. Therefore, failure to test an A/C system during cold weather is not fully justified.

    However, if a home inspector chooses to skip the test, the report should recommend testing by a licensed HVAC contractor prior to close of escrow, rather than allowing the homebuyers to purchase the property without knowing the condition of the A/C system. If your home inspector declined to test the unit but made no recommendation for further evaluation, then he was professionally negligent.

    There is, however, a second issue in your situation. If the A/C system was not fully connected, the lack of connections may have been visible at the time of the inspection. If so, your home inspector would be liable for failing to disclose a visible defect that was within the scope of the inspection.

    But whether he is legally liable depends on the wording of the home inspection contract that you signed. You should notify the inspector of this situation to see what he is willing to do.


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  2. #2
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    I actually have technical questions about all of it.

    Yes the inspector should have at least looked over the system. I am thinking that he said, which is not disclosed by this buyer or followed up on, he did not test the AC and they should have an HVAC company do a follow up blah blah blah.

    Even if he did not and the folks did not do a follow up then shame on them. Like this guy should be liable for them being brain dead. What else would they think they should do but follow up with an HVAC guy to know what they were getting into. Or if they did not inquire....if he left it so vague.....shame on them again.

    I am sure he at the very least did a walk thru with him. I am certain that even if he was brain dead that he would have answered questions as to what they should do. Which leads me to believe that they are brain dead and did not follow up....well.....because they admitted they did not.

    As far as check to see if the AC kicks on...I at the very least do that and then shut it down. Being on for a minute has never killed the AC in any of the homes I have had. I have run every AC system I ever had in the winter to remove moisture in the air for what ever reason and it never had any adverse affect.

    I am thinking that because there was no follow up from these folks...... then they were feeling foolish for not doing some kind of follow up and acted like they had a thought of their own. Basically it sounds more like they are looking for a hand out like the inspector wants to work for nothing.


  3. #3
    David Bell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    Actually the initial start-up of a hermetic piston type compressor with no low ambient controls can cause the most damage as the liquid refrigerant will pool in the compressor, this slugging of the unit can be catastrophic. Without an operable crankcase heater I would not take the chance. The damage to scroll compressors is less likely but, bearings and seals are still at risk.


  4. #4
    Elliot Franson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    Like most of Barry's articles this one is on point. Those who disagree have that right, just not a valid counter argument.


  5. #5
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    "Like most of Barry's articles this one is on point. Those who disagree have that right, just not a valid counter argument."

    I agree that this artical may be techincally accurate, however it is worded in such a way as to question the HI's procedure.
    Example, where he said;

    "However, damage is unlikely to occur if the system is....
    Therefore, failure to test an A/C system during cold weather is not fully justified"

    In real life what he is saying is:
    Damage can occur even if the system is .....
    Therefore testing an A/C system during the cold weather is risking damage to the system.

    ' correct a wise man and you gain a friend... correct a fool and he'll bloody your nose'.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    Quote Originally Posted by Elliot Franson View Post
    Like most of Barry's articles this one is on point. Those who disagree have that right, just not a valid counter argument.
    Elliot, could you expand on this and tell us where we who do not agree are wrong?

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  7. #7
    Don Burbach's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    The same person who is willing to castrate the inspector when he did not operate the AC in the winter, will just wait till the spring and blame the inspector and say he damaged the unit by running it when the temp was below 60 degrees.

    Another concern is setting the buyer's expectations when he complains that the house didn't stay cool when it's 100 degrees, 100% humidity. I also worry about setting an expectation when running the AC when it is 50 degrees out. The buyer has to take some risk, and not use a HI as his personal home warranty plan.

    Last edited by Don Burbach; 08-12-2010 at 05:00 PM. Reason: typo and minor clarification

  8. #8
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    I guess what I was saying is that (the technical part I mentioned) we really do not know how the inspect6or addressed the items. We are hearing part of it from the buyer but no real meat.

    The other (technical) part that I may not have explained any where near how I meant to was that I agree as home inspectors that we should follow the rules even though I feel that damage to the AC unit is little if not none in most cases unless maybe in the hard cold up north.

    As far as Barry being spot on or dead on or anything else right on ...I think he is commenting to much on the unknown and should not have. I personally , by what the buyer said alone, could not condemn, complain about or even comment on what the inspector did or did not do or say. There are far too many unknowns or at least uncertain.

    I find it extremely hard to believe that absolutely nothing verbal or on paper was discussse or expressed to the buyers. Especially knowing that the vast majority of the time at the minimum the buyers are there at the very least in the end of the inspection for a walk thru explaining the findings.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    These columns never provide enough info to give a clear enough picture. I'd like to see what the inspection report says.

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    I live in NJ; so running any A/C after (usually) Oct and before April is out of the question.

    My question would be for the other part of the country where lets say 50 degrees is the norm in winter months. Even if you run the A/C (against manufactures recommendations), how do you know it's operating OK?
    I mean the compressor may run, the blower comes on but how can you determine the actual temperature?

    I think running the A/C at that time may get you into more trouble then just disclaiming it.

    And as far as getting an HVAC tech to look at it; I had a client several years ago request just that. My golfing buddy who works for the largest HVAC contractor in my area told him (and me) there is absolutely no way to confirm the operation of an A/C unit in cold weather.

    Darren www.aboutthehouseinspections.com
    'Whizzing & pasting & pooting through the day (Ronnie helping Kenny helping burn his poots away!) (FZ)

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    There are ways of "fooling" the condensing unit in cooler weather, (not freezing) by limiting the amount of air across the outdoor coil to acheive pressures you would see in warmer weather. Techs will sometimes do this to charge new installs in off season.


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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    Quote Originally Posted by Don Burbach View Post
    The same person who is willing to castrate the inspector when he did not operate the AC in the winter, will just wait till the spring and blame the inspector and say he damaged the unit by running it when the temp was below 69 degrees.
    Exactly.

    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
    http://paragoninspects.com

  13. #13
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    Quote Originally Posted by fritzkelly View Post
    "Especially knowing that the vast majority of the time at the minimum the buyers are there at the very least in the end of the inspection for a walk thru explaining the findings."

    You keep saying this Ted but it is not the case. I would say the buyers show up for 10% of my inspections. Speak for yourself, man.
    Sorry Fritz

    I should have added.......Except for Fritz Kelly

    I know you read this forum all the time and see the the absolute vast majority of inspectors have the clients there the whole time or at least in the end. I would say that you are the extreme exception. My count for folks being at the inspection is lower than the norm but at 10% I think you would tip the scale over.

    In saying that I am sure you must at the very least go over the report with the clients on the phone??????? When you do and you sa something like. "I do not check the AC under xxxx degrees" they must ask you questions like "So what does that mean? What do I do about the AC? What if it does not even come on? What if the compressor is junk? So, let me get this straight.....you cannot tell me anything about the AC? Is it even hooked up? Does it at least look in good physical condition?

    Seriously Fritz. You know and I know that they are going to ask something about it and not just let it go completely. My entire point of correcting my comments was trying to come across that something will be asked about it. If the clients don't...shame on them. If they are told about it and they do nothing about it shame on them. If they do not take the initiative to at least ask about follow thru or take it on there own to do follow up....shame on them.

    Being brain dead and doing nothing at all should be a criminal offense. To put it on the inspector in ridiculous.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    Quote Originally Posted by David Bell View Post
    Actually the initial start-up of a hermetic piston type compressor with no low ambient controls can cause the most damage as the liquid refrigerant will pool in the compressor, this slugging of the unit can be catastrophic. Without an operable crankcase heater I would not take the chance. The damage to scroll compressors is less likely but, bearings and seals are still at risk.
    Agreed, a point where Stone misses the mark in his commentary.
    Stone in many of his articles is pretty quick to lay blame on the inspector, sometimes correctly, sometimes, not so much. In any case his articles are factually deficient in many instances.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    I would have to question why the homeowner would wait till it was 100 degrees out to turn on the AC.

    I call BS or a really stupid homeowner

    Measured Performance more than just a buzzword

  16. #16
    Ted Menelly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    "We bought our home in the winter time, so our home inspector did not test the air conditioner. He said the outside temperature was too cold to run the system. But that left us with an undisclosed problem. The summer arrived with 100-degree temperatures, and we found that our air conditioner did not work."

    I highlighted the entire statement but I paid the most attention to the bold highlight.

    They new there was a "an undisclosed problem"..............but did not follow it up or ask him what to do, or, or, or

    And then what DavidR said being the last sentence

    I need not say more.

    If he cannot test it should he continue on with the AC side knowing that follow up was needed and they would discover any remaining concerns? Maybe on the technical end as fasr as SOPs but where do the SOPs stand if you cannot operate an appliance.

    If the gas is not on in a home and there is a gas stove or a gas water heater or a gas heater I state that the gas was not on so I could not test the functions of x x x items. Do I still have to inspect them or do you wait until the gas is on to inspect them at all.

    With out the electric or gas on and you disclaim the items do to such are you then liable for anything that may be wrong with the units.



  17. #17
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    Nobody has ever come back to me after I disclaimed something as "unable to test for operability" when the gas, water, or electricity has been off. You need to set the proper expectation both verbally and in the report. I think some of the inspectors who have these problems do occasionally end up with the problem clients but ultimately, I believe it comes down to the inspector and how he does or doesn't address issues. He either doesn't verbalize the issue adequately during the inspection, doesn't disclaim or word it properly in his report, or a combo of the two. To a lesser but still pertinent extent, I think some guys just rub their clients the wrong way and don't know how to deal with people which makes their clients more inclined to go after them if they think they might have missed something.

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    But I'm sure that some of you have seen a crappy report from another inspector (at least I hope YOU didn't write it that way) that simply says (if you can read the scrawled handwiting on that yellow legal tablet report):

    Temp 45. AC not tested. Too cold.


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    Post Re: Barry Stone Article

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Ostrowski View Post
    Nobody has ever come back to me after I disclaimed something as "unable to test for operability" when the gas, water, or electricity has been off. You need to set the proper expectation both verbally and in the report. I think some of the inspectors who have these problems do occasionally end up with the problem clients but ultimately, I believe it comes down to the inspector and how he does or doesn't address issues. He either doesn't verbalize the issue adequately during the inspection, doesn't disclaim or word it properly in his report, or a combo of the two. To a lesser but still pertinent extent, I think some guys just rub their clients the wrong way and don't know how to deal with people which makes their clients more inclined to go after them if they think they might have missed something.
    Some good points, Nick. As for Barry's comments, I have to disagree about testing air conditioning units when the temperature is below the manufacturer limit. If the system has not been running, and the OAT is below 65 degrees, I won't test them. I advise my clients to have the unit serviced and further evaluated by a licensed HVAC contractor as weather permits. Different manufacturers set the operating temperature envelope differently. Operating an air conditioning system outside of the design envelope is no less unwise than operating an aircraft outside of the design envelope.

    Randall Aldering GHI BAOM MSM
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  20. #20
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    Quote Originally Posted by Randy Aldering View Post

    Operating an air conditioning system outside of the design envelope is no less unwise than operating an aircraft outside of the design envelope.
    At least you don't have to worry about the A/C unit dropping 30,000 ft.

    Joe Klampfer RHI
    www.myinspection.ca
    Pacific Home Inspections

  21. #21
    Mitchell Toelle's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    If you can't test an item, component or system, for whatever reason, I believe you would still be obligated to report on conditions you can see regarding that item, component or system. I know I do, and our SOP's certainly say I should the way I read them. Example: the gas utility was not turned on during the inspection so I was unable to determine if the gas range was functioning. However, the range lacks an anti-tip device and the gas connector was considered older and not to current standards. Recommend that you upgrade with an anti-tip device and replace the gas connector to enhance safety. The stove should be tested for function when the utilities are restored, preferrably prior to close of escrow.

    I'm sure the same could have been done with the AC unit in Barry's story. Perhaps it was. We just don't have enough information. In that case the Client should have been advised as has been suggested in previous posts. And if there were any visible signs of improper or incomplete installation, other than initial charging, it shoulld have been included in the report.


  22. #22
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    I question whether the average homeinspector can ascertain the functionality of an air conditioning system during cold temperatures.
    With out warm weather heat loads your temperature
    deltas are not accurate and just because you can get the unit to kick in
    says very little about its performance in 100 degree weather.

    wouldn't be the first Barry Stone column I don't agree with. In particular, the part I bolded in his response. I know units with scroll compressors can be run when colder but his statement is pretty much a blanket statement for all AC systems.

    Thoughts?

    Home inspector omits major detail from report

    DEAR BARRY: We bought our home in the winter time, so our home inspector did not test the air conditioner. He said the outside temperature was too cold to run the system. But that left us with an undisclosed problem. The summer arrived with 100-degree temperatures, and we found that our air conditioner did not work.

    The contractor we called said the system had not been fully connected when it was installed, but this was not reported to us during the home inspection. Is our home inspector liable for failing to report this problem? --Kathy

    DEAR KATHY: Your home inspector could be liable, depending on what he did or did not say in his report. At the same time, there remains the issue of whether or not to test an A/C system in cold weather. So let's take a look.

    Many home inspectors refuse to test air conditioners when temperatures are below 60 degrees. This is because A/C systems can be damaged if they are operated during cold weather.

    However, damage is unlikely to occur if the system is briefly operated for purposes of testing and inspecting. Prolonged use is what causes damage. Therefore, failure to test an A/C system during cold weather is not fully justified.

    However, if a home inspector chooses to skip the test, the report should recommend testing by a licensed HVAC contractor prior to close of escrow, rather than allowing the homebuyers to purchase the property without knowing the condition of the A/C system. If your home inspector declined to test the unit but made no recommendation for further evaluation, then he was professionally negligent.

    There is, however, a second issue in your situation. If the A/C system was not fully connected, the lack of connections may have been visible at the time of the inspection. If so, your home inspector would be liable for failing to disclose a visible defect that was within the scope of the inspection.

    But whether he is legally liable depends on the wording of the home inspection contract that you signed. You should notify the inspector of this situation to see what he is willing to do. [/quote]


  23. #23
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    Barry Stone, possibly like most of us "has to wear two hats"!

    He is one of the top professional HI's in my neighborhood and is known as the very first home inspector in our area - basically been doing the job for many,many years.

    He also happens to be a well qualified journalist. His other job is one of being a "syndicated" writer. What better subject to choose from by answering questions on Home Inspections. His columns are to serve and inform the consumer - on the whole he does a great job and as such is in high demand from the media.

    Best regards - Richard


  24. #24
    Elliot Franson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Soundy View Post
    Barry Stone, possibly like most of us "has to wear two hats"!

    He is one of the top professional HI's in my neighborhood and is known as the very first home inspector in our area - basically been doing the job for many,many years.

    He also happens to be a well qualified journalist. His other job is one of being a "syndicated" writer. What better subject to choose from by answering questions on Home Inspections. His columns are to serve and inform the consumer - on the whole he does a great job and as such is in high demand from the media.

    Best regards - Richard
    Mr. Soundy: Very well stated.


  25. #25
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    Just because he's in demand and been a journalist and performing HIs for many years doesn't mean he is always right.

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    This is a direct quote from all of the Carrier A/C Owner's Manuals I've seen.

    Your outdoor unit is not designed to operate when outdoor
    temperatures are lower than 55_F/12.78_C without modification.
    If operation below this temperature is required, consult your
    Carrier dealer.
    Notice it does not say it's ok to run them briefly. I don't know of any HVAC contractor who will test an a/c unit in Minnesota in the winter.

    I tell my clients I can't test the system because the manufacturers recommend not running them when the temperature is below 60. I tell my clients to review the seller's disclosure. If the seller says it works and the buyers find out it doesn't work the first time they run it, to contact their agent. If the house is an REO, I'll tell them to look in to a home warranty or a appliance repair plan through their local utility company.

    MinnesotaHomeInspectors.com
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  27. #27
    Elliot Franson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    For those of you who seem to be making a part-time job of dissing Mr. Barry Stone, here is my take. Mr. Stone has been a leading proponent for the HI profession for years. He is a talented writer and a fine gentleman. While you may disagree with his opinions, none of you has done so eloquently or convincingly, thus far. Why would you want to anyway?

    If you don't like what the man has to say, why not simply write to him? He is more than capable of defending himself against the likes of his detractors on this forum, I assure you.


  28. #28
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    Aaron.......oops, I mean Elliott. I read Barry's articles on Inman News a couple years ago before they made it a pay-to-use site (don't know if that has changed). In any event, I agreed with him 95% of the time. Sometimes, I did not and when I didn't, I replied to his columns and left my comments stating why I disagreed. I never heard anything back from Barry to retort my contentions which is fine. He doesn't have to reply to everybody who does not agree with him.

    I assume he is a fine gentleman and he is a talented writer who has been at this inspection game far longer than I have. I enjoy reading his column too. But it doesn't make him infallible. Maybe things are different down in Texas. Here in PA, winters get very cold. If you or Barry are willing to take the financial hit for us cold weather inspectors running AC systems when it is 20 degrees out, please send your credit card numbers up and be sure you have a high spending limit in place.

    "It takes a big man to cry. It takes an even bigger man to laugh at that man". - Jack Handey

  29. #29
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Ostrowski View Post
    If you or Barry are willing to take the financial hit for us cold weather inspectors running AC systems when it is 20 degrees out, please send your credit card numbers up and be sure you have a high spending limit in place.
    How about negative 20 degrees?

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  30. #30
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    Quote Originally Posted by Elliot Franson View Post
    For those of you who seem to be making a part-time job of dissing Mr. Barry Stone, here is my take. Mr. Stone has been a leading proponent for the HI profession for years. He is a talented writer and a fine gentleman. While you may disagree with his opinions, none of you has done so eloquently or convincingly, thus far. Why would you want to anyway?

    If you don't like what the man has to say, why not simply write to him? He is more than capable of defending himself against the likes of his detractors on this forum, I assure you.
    Convincingly? If you ever heard a piston type compressor slug liquid refrigerant you would understand the damage that can be done, and very quickly. These Facts have absolutly nothing to do with who Mr. Barry Stone is.


  31. #31
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    Dear Barry -
    I've been inspecting homes in Minnesota for more than 20 years. We have months where the outdoor temperature never gets above freezing. We have more than a few days where I need to put on boots and extra layers of clothing to protect myself when outdoor temperatures reach below minus twenty degrees Fahrenheit (-20F). A nearby town, Embarrass, MN, is proud of the cold temperatures and actually use it to promote the town. Check it out Embarrass.org - Home

    Apparently you wrote an article in response to a readers question in which you said,
    "Many home inspectors refuse to test air conditioners when temperatures are below 60 degrees. This is because A/C systems can be damaged if they are operated during cold weather."
    And you went on to say,
    "However, damage is unlikely to occur if the system is briefly operated for purposes of testing and inspecting. Prolonged use is what causes damage. Therefore, failure to test an A/C system during cold weather is not fully justified."

    Please point me in the direction of documentation provided by A/C manufacturers that supports your conclusion that professional home inspectors should turn on and test A/C in winter - in Minnesota. Thanks in advance!

    Please email your reply to fred@homeinspectionsofmn.com


  32. #32
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    Quote Originally Posted by David Bell View Post
    Convincingly? If you ever heard a piston type compressor slug liquid refrigerant you would understand the damage that can be done, and very quickly. These Facts have absolutely nothing to do with who Mr. Barry Stone is.
    Agreed.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  33. #33
    David Bell's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    Jim, thanks for fixing my speelling,, crap, there's that e I was missing.


  34. #34
    Robert Welch's Avatar
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    Default Re: Barry Stone Article

    Nick,

    I could not have said it better,

    Robert
    Houston Home Inspection - Houston Home Inspectors - Robert Welch



    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Ostrowski View Post
    This wouldn't be the first Barry Stone column I don't agree with. In particular, the part I bolded in his response. I know units with scroll compressors can be run when colder but his statement is pretty much a blanket statement for all AC systems.

    Thoughts?

    Home inspector omits major detail from report

    DEAR BARRY: We bought our home in the winter time, so our home inspector did not test the air conditioner. He said the outside temperature was too cold to run the system. But that left us with an undisclosed problem. The summer arrived with 100-degree temperatures, and we found that our air conditioner did not work.

    The contractor we called said the system had not been fully connected when it was installed, but this was not reported to us during the home inspection. Is our home inspector liable for failing to report this problem? --Kathy

    DEAR KATHY: Your home inspector could be liable, depending on what he did or did not say in his report. At the same time, there remains the issue of whether or not to test an A/C system in cold weather. So let's take a look.

    Many home inspectors refuse to test air conditioners when temperatures are below 60 degrees. This is because A/C systems can be damaged if they are operated during cold weather.

    However, damage is unlikely to occur if the system is briefly operated for purposes of testing and inspecting. Prolonged use is what causes damage. Therefore, failure to test an A/C system during cold weather is not fully justified.

    However, if a home inspector chooses to skip the test, the report should recommend testing by a licensed HVAC contractor prior to close of escrow, rather than allowing the homebuyers to purchase the property without knowing the condition of the A/C system. If your home inspector declined to test the unit but made no recommendation for further evaluation, then he was professionally negligent.

    There is, however, a second issue in your situation. If the A/C system was not fully connected, the lack of connections may have been visible at the time of the inspection. If so, your home inspector would be liable for failing to disclose a visible defect that was within the scope of the inspection.

    But whether he is legally liable depends on the wording of the home inspection contract that you signed. You should notify the inspector of this situation to see what he is willing to do.



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