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 planning for the cold months ahead. Cold weather puts new demands on your heating and cooling system. To prepare your furnace for the heavy work it will soon be taking on, scheduled HVAC maintenance should be on your fall checklist. 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 specialist from Service Experts shares five questions to ask when preparing your furnace for winter.

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

When the cold weather arrives, many businesses prioritize repairs over maintenance requests. Getting your HVAC system tune-up done before the first bite of winter cold assures that you will be ready for the season. It’s also worthwhile to look for a contractor with workers who are 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 furnace maintenance. 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 change your HVAC 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 elevates 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 brain of your HVAC system. It’s important 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 stage, you should turn it on and listen for any odd noises or clues the system is struggling to engage.

If the furnace is older, a smart thermostat is a worthwhile product to own. It can save you up to 20% on each year’s electricity bill. Whereas a programmable thermostat changes settings based on the time of day, a smart thermostat also considers your behavior. Most designs can be linked to your smartphone so that changes can be made when you aren’t home. For even more safety, more sophisticated smart thermostats may be connected to smoke alarms and be controlled by voice commands, as well as 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?

Looking over your doors and windows for air leaks before the colder weather settles in can save you a headache later. Not only does this 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 notice an air leak now, you can take preventative steps before winter approaches, like:

  • Replacing old weatherstripping to ensure doors and windows are totally 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,” 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. residences don’t have enough insulation, according to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association. That can have a big impact on your HVAC system, which will have 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 more. But what are the signs your property 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 arrange a tune-up with Service Experts, visit https://www.serviceexperts.com/.

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