5 Key Questions to Ask When Preparing HVAC Systems for Winter

By Brian Sodoma, for Service Experts

With autumn coming soon, homeowners will soon be planning for the winter months ahead. Cold weather places even more demand on your heating system. To prepare your heating unit for the heavy work it will soon be taking on, scheduled HVAC maintenance should be on your fall chore list. It’s crucial for your system to run efficiently in order to reduce the likelihood of repairs at an inconvenient or unsafe time, such as during a storm. Here, an experienced specialist from Service Experts shares five questions to ask yourself to see if you’re ready.

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

When the cold sets in, many businesses prioritize repairs over maintenance calls. Getting your HVAC system tune-up done before the first bite of winter cold assures that it will be ready for the season. It’s also important to look for a contractor who employs 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 routine furnace checks. 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 is a busy time, which means it’s easy to forget to replace your HVAC system’s air filter. Filters capture dust, pet hair and other airborne irritants, so changing a dirty filter with a clean one increases your system’s operational efficiency and promotes 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 explained. “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 control center for your HVAC system. It’s important to make sure it’s in proper running order by switching it from cool to heat mode, setting your heating setpoints, checking your schedule on a programmable thermostat and replacing the batteries if appropriate. At this point, you should turn it on and listen for any odd noises or clues the system is struggling to turn on.

If the furnace is older, a smart thermostat is a valuable purchase. It can save you up to 20% on your yearly power bill. While a programmable thermostat changes settings dependent on the time of day, a smart thermostat also takes into account your behavior. Most models can be linked to your smartphone so that modifications can be made remotely. For additional safety, more sophisticated models may be connected to smoke alarms and follow voice commands, in addition to 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?

Looking over your doors and windows for air leaks before the cold weather sets in can save you a lot of stress later. Not only could leaks cause drafts, making your living space uncomfortable, but the cold air can also lower the temperature in your home, forcing your HVAC system to work harder and increase your heating bills.

If you notice an air leak in the fall, you can take preventative actions before winter hits, including:

  • Replacing old weatherstripping to make sure doors and windows are completely sealed.
  • Re-caulking any cracks.
  • Closing the fireplace damper when you aren’t using it.

“Avoiding wintertime HVAC issues starts months before winter even begins,” explained 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 significant impact on your furnace, which will need to work harder to keep up during times of extreme temperatures. Autumn is an ideal time to think about adding insulation, if you think your home needs it. But how can you tell when your property needs more insulation?

“If your attic insulation is less than seven inches deep, it’s inadequate,” Carson noted. “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 schedule a tune-up with Service Experts, visit https://www.serviceexperts.com/.

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