5 Key Questions to Ask When Preparing HVAC Systems for Winter

By Brian Sodoma, for Service Experts

With autumn coming soon, homeowners will soon be preparing for the winter months ahead. Cold weather adds new demands on your HVAC system. To prepare your furnace for the heavy work it will need to do, scheduled HVAC maintenance should be on your fall chore list. It’s vital for your system to perform efficiently in order to reduce the likelihood of repairs at an undesirable or unsafe time, such as during a storm. Here, an experienced professional from Service Experts shares five questions to ask when considering furnace maintenance.

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

Once the cold hits the area, many companies focus on repairs over maintenance requests. Getting your HVAC system tune-up done before the first bite of winter cold ensures that you’ll have your system ready for the season. It’s also highly recommended 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 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
  • 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 swap out your furnace’s air filter. Filters catch dust, pet hair and other airborne debris, so exchanging a dirty filter with a clean one enhances 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 brain of your furnace. It’s important to make sure it’s in proper running order by changing 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, it’s time to turn it on and listen for any strange noises or clues the system is struggling to turn on.

If you have an older system, a smart thermostat is a worthwhile investment. It can save you up to 20% annually on your energy bill. While a programmable thermostat changes settings based on the time of day, a smart thermostat also considers your behavior. Most designs can be paired with your smartphone so that modifications can be made even if you are away. For even more safety, more sophisticated models may be connected to smoke alarms and be controlled by voice commands, as well as other convenient 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?

Looking over your doors and windows for air leaks before the colder weather settles in 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 furnace to work harder and increase your heating expenses.

If you find an air leak ahead of time, you can take preventative measures before winter arrives, including:

  • Replacing old weatherstripping to make sure 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,” 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 need more insulation, 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 excellent time to look into adding insulation, if you think your home needs additional protection from the elements. But what are the signs 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 set up a tune-up with Service Experts, visit https://www.serviceexperts.com/.

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