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 weather ahead. Cold weather adds even more demand on your heating and cooling system. To prepare your heating unit for the heavy work it will soon be taking on, scheduled HVAC maintenance should be on your fall to-do list. It’s essential for your system to operate efficiently in order to reduce the likelihood of repairs at an inopportune or unsafe time, such as during a storm. Here, an experienced 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 hits the area, many contractors focus on repairs over maintenance calls. Getting your HVAC system tune-up done before the first bite of winter cold assures that you’ll have your system 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 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
  • 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 HVAC system’s air filter. Filters trap dust, pet hair and other airborne irritants, so replacing a dirty filter with a clean one increases 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 nerve center of your heating and cooling equipment. It’s a good idea 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. Now, it’s time to turn it on and listen for any strange noises or clues the system is struggling to start.

If your equipment is getting older, a smart thermostat is a practical investment. It can save you up to 20% annually on your power bill. While a programmable thermostat modifies settings according to the time of day, a smart thermostat also factors in your behavior. Most models can be paired with your smartphone so that changes can be made when you aren’t home. For added safety, more sophisticated designs may be linked to smoke alarms and be controlled by voice commands, in addition to other helpful 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?

Looking over your doors and windows for air leaks before the colder weather settles in can save you a lot of stress later. Not only does this cause drafts, making your living space chilly in the winter or warm in the summer, but the cold air can also lower the temperature in your home, forcing your heating system to work harder and increase your utility bills.

If you find an air leak now, you can take preventative actions before winter hits, such as:

  • Replacing old weatherstripping so doors and windows are totally sealed.
  • Re-caulking any cracks.
  • Closing the fireplace damper when it’s not being used.

“Avoiding wintertime HVAC issues starts months before winter even begins,” noted 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. households need more insulation, according to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association. That can have a direct impact on your furnace, which will be forced to work harder to keep up during times of very hot or cold temperatures. Autumn is an ideal time to consider adding insulation, if you think your home needs additional protection from the elements. But what are the signs your home 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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