Steven L. Smith, Bellingham, WA Home Inspector (King of the House)


Home Inspection: Where the Uncommon is Common

Anyone who says that a home inspector sees the same old things over and over again, is either not familiar with the territory of home inspection or he or she is ill informed. Sure, most of what we see is repetitive with varying degrees of good or bad going on.

But there are so many different systems and devices, and many harebrained repairs, that sometimes the unusual becomes apparent. I think I have seen maybe two systems like the one I am writing about here -- Apollo Hydro Heat. At first glace, the unit looks like a furnace. But, in fact, it utilizes hot water, produced by the water heater, to generate heat that is then distributed by the air-handler through heat ducts and registers.

The top left photo is a view of the device, front cover off. The top photo to the right confirms a manufacture date as 1990. The lower photo is the closest thing to a service tag and it verifies installation as 1991 year.

This system operated when tested, but the unit was aged and the appearance was consistent with that finding. That service tag went back to the date of installation......1991. The anticipated life of the product is 15 to 20 years tops. And this calculates as 23 years since installation and 24 years since manufacture. My recommendation to the client stated the following:

In light of the real estate sale, this less commonly seen system, and the age of the air-handler, I recommend service at this time with contractor evaluation of the full system including cleaning, lubrication, balance of system ducts airflow and connections, review of system performance. Professional at that time to, if possible, provide an estimate of any remaining life and to describe routine maintenance procedures such as how, and when, to clean or replace any associated system filters.

Agents involved were not so pleased with my recommendation and the buyer told me later that seller refused to fix anything, so agents paid for any repairs that took place.

I was glad I reported as I did: A couple weeks after the client took occupancy, I heard back that the heating unit had failed and they had no heat in cold weather. As a result of my comments as to system vulnerabilities, their ire fell back on the seller and doubts about the HVAC service that was arranged for by the seller's agent. The report, issued by the HVAC firm after service, was never provided to the buyer. I doubt that the HVAC service contractor guaranteed ongoing operation of this old appliance. With a system of that age, as with tropical fish or an old car, it should be assumed that anything can happen at any time -- don't get emotionally attached to it!

Steven L. Smith

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Comment balloon 4 commentsSteven L. Smith • February 22 2014 08:19AM


The house is the house.  I don't understand why agents would balk at anything said about a 24 year old system!  And to request what you did is not mere due diligence, it is important.  Particularly to the buyer...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago

Any contract that includes a home inspection should include the provision that the seller agrees to make repairs recommended by the inspector and provide the buyer with a copy of the inspection report and paid receipt for repairs made.

The buyer then tests the equipment during the pre-settlement walk-through.

Anything less is just asking for trouble.

Sellers who care, make repairs prior to listing.  Agents who care, provide for home warranties.


Posted by Lenn Harley, Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland (Lenn Harley,, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate) over 6 years ago

Heating systems get a lot of use in our areas so any system older than 3/4 of its rated service life should get a hard look, an overhaul and a specialized professional performance evaluation.

Posted by Robert Butler, Montreal Home Inspector | Aspect Inspection (Aspect Inspection) over 6 years ago

Steve, This is so common on so many things. Just found out that a client had their main waste line start backing up. I had mentioned that they may want to consider having the sewer scoped. You know how that went.We can only recommend.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 6 years ago