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 getting ready for the winter months ahead. Cold weather puts additional demand on your heating and cooling system. To prepare your furnace for the heavy work it will soon be taking on, regular HVAC maintenance should be on your fall chore list. It’s crucial for your system to run efficiently in order to reduce the probability of repairs at an undesirable or unsafe time, such as during a storm. Here, an experienced technician from Service Experts shares five questions to ask when preparing your furnace for winter.

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

Once the cold weather arrives, many companies give preference to 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 with workers who are 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 gets busy, which means it’s easy to forget to change your HVAC system’s air filter. Filters capture dust, pet hair and other airborne particles, so replacing 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 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 required. Now, it’s time to turn it on and listen for any unusual noises or clues the system is struggling to start.

If the furnace is older, a smart thermostat is a worthwhile purchase. It can save you up to 20% on your yearly energy bill. Whereas a programmable thermostat modifies settings based on the time of day, a smart thermostat also factors in your behavior. Most brands can be linked to your smartphone so that adjustments can be made even if you are away. For increased safety, more sophisticated smart thermostats may be connected to smoke alarms and follow voice commands, among other helpful 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 arrives can save you a lot of stress later. Not only can it 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 HVAC system to work harder and increase your heating expenses.

If you find an air leak ahead of time, you can take preventative measures before winter hits, such as:

  • 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,” 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 big impact on your heating system, which will have to work harder to keep up during times of very hot or cold temperatures. Autumn is an outstanding time to think about adding insulation, if you think your home needs more. But how do you know if your property 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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