5 Key Questions to Ask When Preparing HVAC Systems for Winter

By Brian Sodoma, for Service Experts

With autumn around the corner, homeowners will soon be preparing for the cold months ahead. Cold weather adds additional demand on your heating system. To prepare your furnace for the heavy work it will need to do, routine HVAC maintenance should be on your fall to-do list. It’s vital for your system to perform efficiently in order to reduce the probability of repairs at an inopportune or unsafe time, such as during a storm. Here, a skilled technician from Service Experts shares five questions to ask yourself to see if you’re ready.

1. When Should I Schedule My Furnace Tune-Up?

As soon as the cold weather arrives, many companies prioritize repairs over maintenance calls. Getting your HVAC system tune-up done before the first bite of winter cold assures that you will be ready for the season. It’s also important to look for a contractor with workers who are qualified technicians, said Mike Carson, manager of technical training and field operations support at Service Experts. To further evaluate a contractor, ask what’s included in their furnace maintenance. Here are a few must-haves:

  • Cleaning burners and ignition components
  • Testing safeties
  • Inspecting the heat exchanger
  • Cleaning and flushing drain lines
  • Checking air filters
  • Testing thermostats

2. When Was the Last Time I Changed My Air Filters?

Summer gets busy, which means it’s easy to forget to change your HVAC system’s air filter. Filters trap dust, pet hair and other airborne debris, so changing a dirty filter with a clean one improves your system’s operational efficiency and boosts indoor air quality.

“When you don’t replace the filter, the system needs to work harder to pull in air, which can lead to early failure,” Carson said. “Some homeowners will choose a cheap fiberglass filter. They’re less expensive, but pleated filters trap more dust and particles. On the other hand, some can be too thick and restrictive. During your tune-up, ask the technician to suggest which filter is best for your system.”

3. Is My Thermostat Ready for Winter?

Your thermostat is the brain of your HVAC system. It’s important to make sure it’s in proper running order by flipping it from cool to heat mode, setting your heating setpoints, checking your schedule on a programmable thermostat and replacing the batteries if they are drained. At this point, you’ll want to turn it on and listen for any unusual noises or signs the system is struggling to start.

If the furnace is older, a smart thermostat is a valuable purchase. It can save you up to 20% on each year’s electricity bill. Whereas a programmable thermostat modifies settings according to the time of day, a smart thermostat also considers your behavior. Most models can be linked to your smartphone so that adjustments can be made even if you are away. For increased safety, more sophisticated models may be joined with your smoke alarms and be controlled by voice commands, among other helpful features.

“A smart thermostat is an inexpensive, but powerful intuitive device for your home,” Carson remarked. “The learning curve will be long forgotten once you start enjoying the convenience and energy savings it offers.”

4. Do I Have Any Air Leaks?

Inspecting your doors and windows for air leaks before the winter weather sets in can save you a hassle later. Not only does this cause drafts, making your living space unpleasant, but the cold air can also lower the temperature in your home, forcing your heating system to work harder and increase your energy bills.

If you notice an air leak in the fall, you can take preventative steps before winter hits, such as:

  • Replacing old weatherstripping to ensure doors and windows are totally sealed.
  • Re-caulking any cracks.
  • Closing the fireplace damper when not in use.

“Avoiding wintertime HVAC issues starts months before winter even begins,” said Carson. “Take the time now to make sure your home is ready so you’re not paying for it later.”

5. Is the Insulation in My Home Ready for Winter?

Roughly 90% of U.S. households need more insulation, according to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association. That can have a direct impact on your heating system, which will need to work harder to keep up during times of extremely hot or cold weather. Autumn is an ideal time to look into adding insulation, if you think your home needs additional protection from the elements. But how can you tell when your home needs more insulation?

“If your attic insulation is less than seven inches deep, it’s inadequate,” Carson explained. “Adding more will probably save you another 20% on your energy bill. Inconsistent room temperatures and drafts could also be signs of poor insulation. Services like blower door testing, home energy audits and infrared cameras can help determine where your home may need more insulation as well.”

To learn more about HVAC maintenance or to set up a tune-up with Service Experts, visit https://www.serviceexperts.com/.

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