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 getting ready for the winter months ahead. Cold weather puts additional demand on your HVAC system. To prepare your heating unit for the heavy work it will need to do, regular HVAC maintenance should be on your fall chore list. It’s essential 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, 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?

As soon as the cold sets in, 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 worthwhile 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 furnace maintenance. 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 can get hectic, which means it’s easy to forget to replace your heating and cooling system’s air filter. Filters catch dust, pet hair and other airborne irritants, so exchanging a dirty filter with a clean one improves 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 brain of your HVAC system. It’s a good idea 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 stage, you’ll want to turn it on and listen for any odd noises or indications the system is struggling to turn on.

If your equipment is getting older, a smart thermostat is a practical product to own. It can save you up to 20% annually on your energy bill. Although a programmable thermostat adjusts settings dependent on the time of day, a smart thermostat also takes into account your behavior. Most brands can be linked to your smartphone so that modifications can be made remotely. For added safety, more sophisticated smart thermostats may be linked to smoke alarms and respond to voice commands, in addition to 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?

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

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

  • 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,” 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 don’t have enough insulation, according to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association. That can have a direct impact on your furnace, which will need to work harder to keep up during times of very hot or cold temperatures. Autumn is an outstanding time to consider 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 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 arrange a tune-up with Service Experts, visit https://www.serviceexperts.com/.

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