Property Management Maintenance – Furnace/AC
When it comes to owning a rental property there are certain universal laws. Yeah, sort of like Newton’s Laws of Motion…but not really…
These laws are known as —
Gilburne’s Laws of Rental Property Maintenance:
- Rental Property Law #1 – Stuff will break
- Rental Property Law #2 – Really expensive stuff tends to break in the middle of the night
- Rental Property Law #3 – Fixing broken stuff costs money
Now, if you clear the cobwebs covering the long forgotten lessons of high school physics, you might recall something called the Rules of Thermodynamics…?
Well, did you know that within the world of rental properties, there too is a unique set of laws of thermodynamics? These laws are called, Gilburne’s Laws of Rental Property Thermodynamics. (Hey! They’re my laws, I get to name them they way I like. Jealous? Go make up your own non-scientific laws.)
Gilburne’s Laws of Rental Property Thermodynamics:
- At 11:46pm on the coldest night of the year, at least one furnace will die; blow it’s last gust of heat., and
- At 10:03 pm on the hottest day of the year, the AC will break down, or…your tenant says that the place is Sooooo hot, that they are willing to break the lease to move out of the home that doubles as a broiler.
So, when you combine my laws of Property Management Maintenance, and Property Management Thermodynamics — what do you get?
A whopping head-ache, and a big bill.
Horrible humor aside, you own a business with moving parts. Sometimes those moving parts break. Sometimes those moving parts that break are expensive to repair. So, although you have a property manager working for you — or perhaps you are your own property manager, you are going to have to make a decision on how you are going to replace this broken thing.
Bottom line — if you have a home with central air, unless you have a fairly new unit, sometime during your ownership of the property, you are going to have to make an investment.
Whether you’re looking at a new furnace or A/C, the market is like so many — there are a lot of brands, that all make the same claims. They all say they are the best. The most efficient, the…blah, blah, blah.
In fact, if you removed the branding off of the literature from all of the different manufacturers, one would be hard pressed to tell the difference between one brand and another.
Now, if you have particular experience with a certain brand — like you grew up with Brand X, and it never stopped running, you might be inclined to go with that brand no matter what the cost. Likewise, you had Brand Y, and it stopped running after a few years….you’ve sworn that brand off.
Well — as an owner of a rental property business (yes, I’ll always remind you that you own a business, not an investment), I’ll suggest that you forget what you think you might already know about the residential HVAC industry; set aside your past experiences. Consider some of the information that I’ll share with you below; keep it in your back pocket for the next time you are faced with having to tell your property manager what you want to do about that dead furnace.
Let’s be clear — I’m a property manager…and a pretty good one if I may say so myself. I’m also a geek, and love learning about how things work. Why they break, and how to fix them. Or more accurately, how the professionals fix them. Like you, I rely upon the guys in the industry to learn from, and good ol’ Google research.
So, with that said — my approach to helping you become more comfortable with the furnace market is to share with you some fundamental facts, and some great sites I came upon with a little research.
With this information in hand, when your property manager calls you on a Sunday to say they need your approval to install a new furnace, you will (hopefully) be sufficiently knowledgeable, and feel less blind when making what could be a several thousand dollar decision.
Four Key Facts About the Furnace Industry:
- There are a LOT of brands: I found this one list HERE citing 30 brands. If you keep on digging, however, you will see a subset of brands that are most commonly noted: Amana, American Standard, Bryant, Carrier, Coleman, Ducane, Goodman, Heil, Lennox, Rheem, Ruud, Trane, Westinghouse, York.
- Industry has consolidated: Over the years, there has been a significant consolidation of brands under a relatively smaller number of manufacturers.
– Carrier, and Bryant are both made by the same company.
– Goodman and Amana are both manufactured by Amana.
– Trane and American Standard.
– Heil and Tempstar are made by Inter-City Products.
- Installation is arguably more important than whether you go with a Bryant or Carrier.
- After installation — annual service is more important.
Following are a couple of good sites worth perusing. The first has some good information on the basics of home furnaces.
If you just go to the two sites above, after a couple of cups of coffee, you will be well armed to have a meaningful conversation with your property manager when you are told it’s “time.”
I noted above that — my impression (after countless conversations with various HVAC companies, and a fair amount of reading) the fundamental aspects of products (within an efficiency tier) are the same. No doubt there are some subtle differences. Indeed, those differences may be important to you, and justify an increased expenditure. But keep in mind — that it is the installation, and service that will make or break you.
With that said, if you are faced with investing in a new furnace ensure that you are comfortable with the company doing the work. Ask your property manager why they recommend the provider that they have placed in front of you. What’s their reputation?
Portland Homes & Commercial Properties