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 winter months ahead. Cold weather puts new demands on your HVAC 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 essential for your system to operate efficiently in order to reduce the risk of repairs at an inconvenient or unsafe time, such as during a storm. Here, a skilled professional from Service Experts shares five questions to ask yourself to see if you’re ready.

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

Once the cold sets in, many companies focus on repairs over maintenance requests. 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 vet a contractor, ask what’s included in their tune-up. Here are a few must-haves:

  • Cleaning burners and ignition components
  • Testing safeties
  • Inspecting the heat exchanger
  • Cleaning and flushing drain lines
  • Looking at 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 heating and cooling system’s air filter. Filters trap dust, pet hair and other airborne irritants, so changing a dirty filter with a clean one enhances 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 furnace. You’ll want 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 necessary. At this point, you’ll want to turn it on and listen for any strange noises or indications the system is struggling to engage.

If the furnace is older, a smart thermostat is a worthwhile investment. It can save you up to 20% on each year’s energy bill. While a programmable thermostat changes settings based on the time of day, a smart thermostat also takes into account your behavior. Most models can be paired with your smartphone so that adjustments can be made remotely. For added safety, more sophisticated designs may be linked to smoke alarms and respond to voice commands, as well as other convenient features.

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

Checking your doors and windows for air leaks before the colder weather sets in can save you a hassle later. Not only can it cause drafts, making your living space unpleasant, 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 now, you can take preventative steps before winter approaches, like:

  • Replacing old weatherstripping to ensure doors and windows are completely 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. homes are under-insulated, according to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association. That can have a direct impact on your HVAC system, which will be forced to work harder to keep up during times of extreme temperatures. Autumn is an outstanding time to consider adding insulation, if you think your home needs additional protection from the elements. But how do you know if your home needs more insulation?

“If your attic insulation is less than seven inches deep, it’s inadequate,” Carson said. “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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