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 winter months ahead. Cold weather puts additional demand on your HVAC system. To prepare your furnace for the heavy work it will need to do, routine HVAC maintenance should be on your fall chore list. It’s essential for your system to run efficiently in order to reduce the likelihood of repairs at an inopportune or unsafe time, such as during a storm. Here, a knowledgeable 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?

Once the cold weather arrives, many companies prioritize repairs over maintenance requests. 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 important 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 vet a contractor, ask what’s included in their tune-up. 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 furnace’s air filter. Filters catch dust, pet hair and other airborne irritants, so changing a dirty filter with a clean one increases your system’s operational efficiency and boosts 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 remarked. “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. It’s important 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 necessary. At this point, you’ll want to turn it on and listen for any strange noises or indications the system is struggling to engage.

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 models can be connected to your smartphone so that adjustments can be made remotely. For added safety, more sophisticated smart thermostats may be linked to smoke alarms and respond to voice commands, among other convenient 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 cold weather sets in can save you a hassle later. Not only can it cause drafts, making your living space uncomfortable, but the cold air can also lower the temperature in your home, forcing your HVAC system to work harder and increase your energy expenses.

If you notice an air leak now, you can take preventative actions before winter approaches, 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?

Around 90% of U.S. households are under-insulated, according to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association. That can have a direct 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 look into adding insulation, if you think your home needs it. But how do you know if your home 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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