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 cold months ahead. Cold weather adds even more demand on your heating system. To prepare your heating system 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 run efficiently in order to reduce the probability of repairs at an inconvenient or unsafe time, such as during a storm. Here, a skilled technician from Service Experts shares five questions to ask yourself to see if you’re ready.

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

When the cold weather arrives, many businesses give preference to repairs over maintenance calls. Getting your HVAC system tune-up done before the first bite of winter cold ensures that it will be ready for the season. It’s also important 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 check into 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 heating and cooling system’s air filter. Filters capture dust, pet hair and other airborne particles, so changing 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 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 switching it from cool to heat mode, setting your heating setpoints, checking your schedule on a programmable thermostat and replacing the batteries if they are drained. At this point, it’s time to turn it on and listen for any strange noises or clues the system is struggling to engage.

If your equipment is getting older, a smart thermostat is a practical purchase. It can save you up to 20% on your yearly energy bill. Whereas a programmable thermostat adjusts settings according to the time of day, a smart thermostat also considers your behavior. Most models can be connected to your smartphone so that modifications can be made even if you are away. For increased safety, more sophisticated designs may be joined with your smoke alarms and respond to voice commands, among 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?

Checking your doors and windows for air leaks before the colder weather arrives can save you a lot of stress 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 heating expenses.

If you detect an air leak ahead of time, you can take preventative steps 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,” 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?

About 90% of U.S. residences need more insulation, according to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association. That can have a big impact on your furnace, which will have to work harder to keep up during times of very hot or cold temperatures. Autumn is an excellent time to think about adding insulation, if you think your home needs it. 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 schedule a tune-up with Service Experts, visit https://www.serviceexperts.com/.

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