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 cold months ahead. Cold weather places additional demand on your HVAC system. To prepare your furnace 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 operate efficiently in order to reduce the likelihood of repairs at an inconvenient 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?

As soon as the cold hits the area, many contractors focus on repairs over maintenance requests. 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 who employs qualified technicians, said Mike Carson, manager of technical training and field operations support at Service Experts. To further check into 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 can get hectic, which means it’s easy to forget to replace your heating and cooling system’s air filter. Filters capture dust, pet hair and other airborne particles, so exchanging 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 said. “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. You’ll want to make sure it’s in proper running order by flipping 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 should turn it on and listen for any odd noises or signs the system is struggling to engage.

If your equipment is getting older, a smart thermostat is a worthwhile purchase. It can save you up to 20% on your yearly electricity bill. Although a programmable thermostat changes settings dependent on the time of day, a smart thermostat also factors in your behavior. Most designs can be paired with your smartphone so that modifications can be made even if you are away. For increased safety, more sophisticated models may be joined with your smoke alarms and respond to voice commands, among other useful 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 does this cause drafts, making your living space uncomfortable, but the cold air can also lower the temperature in your home, forcing your furnace to work harder and increase your heating expenses.

If you detect an air leak now, you can take preventative measures before winter arrives, such as:

  • Replacing old weatherstripping to ensure 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,” 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. residences need more insulation, according to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association. That can have a direct impact on your furnace, which will have 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 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 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 set up a tune-up with Service Experts, visit https://www.serviceexperts.com/.

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