5 Key Questions to Ask When Preparing HVAC Systems for Winter

By Brian Sodoma, for Service Experts

With autumn on the horizon, homeowners will soon be preparing for the winter weather ahead. Cold weather puts new demands 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 checklist. It’s vital for your system to run efficiently in order to reduce the risk of repairs at an inopportune or unsafe time, such as during a storm. Here, a knowledgeable 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 hits the area, many companies give preference to repairs over maintenance appointments. Getting your HVAC system tune-up done before the first bite of winter cold means that it will be ready for the season. It’s also beneficial to look for a contractor whose team consists of qualified technicians, said Mike Carson, manager of technical training and field operations support at Service Experts. To further vet 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
  • Examining 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 furnace’s air filter. Filters trap dust, pet hair and other airborne debris, so replacing a dirty filter with a clean one enhances 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 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 heating and cooling equipment. It’s important to make sure it’s in proper running order by changing it from cool to heat mode, setting your heating setpoints, checking your schedule on a programmable thermostat and replacing the batteries if required. At this point, you’ll want to turn it on and listen for any unusual noises or signs the system is struggling to engage.

If you have an older system, a smart thermostat is a worthwhile investment. It can save you up to 20% on each year’s electricity bill. Although a programmable thermostat adjusts settings based on the time of day, a smart thermostat also considers your behavior. Most designs can be paired with your smartphone so that adjustments can be made when you aren’t home. For even more safety, more sophisticated smart thermostats may be linked to smoke alarms and be controlled by voice commands, in addition to other convenient features.

“A smart thermostat is an inexpensive, but powerful intuitive device for your home,” Carson said. “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?

Examining your doors and windows for air leaks before the colder weather settles 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 costs.

If you notice an air leak in the fall, you can take preventative measures before winter approaches, like:

  • Replacing old weatherstripping so doors and windows are fully 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?

Around 90% of U.S. homes are under-insulated, according to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association. That can have a direct impact on your heating system, which will be forced to work harder to keep up during times of extreme temperatures. Autumn is an excellent time to think about adding insulation, if you think your home needs additional protection from the elements. But how can you tell when your residence 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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