air handler fire

Inspection Horror-Air Handler Fire

This is a gem from a recent home inspection. Apparently, there had been a fire in the air handler of this heat pump. As you can see, the control board is scorched, and presumably so is the wiring that is copiously wrapped in electricians tape. My best guess is that they never changed the furnace filter, or perhaps didn’t have one installed. Build up of lint and dust on the heating coil, which burst into flame when the coil was energized for emergency heat.  The blocks of wood supporting the control board are a nice touch. I would definitely have this until thoroughly evaluated by a professional HVAC technician and repaired or replaced.

So, what lessons can we draw from something like this? When I see this sort of thing, I instantly think that I’m looking at a former rental property. This is exactly the sort of band-aid, just get it working sort of repair a less scrupulous landlord will do, particularly if they want to sell the property. It’s a great argument as to why the home inspection is important. Not only did I find a defect that would have potentially cost quite a bit to fix, it’s a great clue as to the general repair of the property.  The unit was working and looked fine from the outside, but who knows how long it would have worked, or whether it would have burst into flame again.  When I find something like this during a home inspection, I really feel like I earned my fee.

And that’s part of why I became a home inspector. After years of home building, I felt like I could provide a valuable service, without the physical demands of construction. Any time I save a customer a few thousand dollars, or help make their home safer, it makes my day.