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 planning for the winter months ahead. Cold weather adds even more demand on your HVAC system. To prepare your heating unit for the heavy work it will soon be taking on, regular HVAC maintenance should be on your fall to-do list. It’s crucial for your system to run efficiently in order to reduce the risk of repairs at an undesirable 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?

When the cold sets in, many companies give preference to repairs over maintenance appointments. Getting your HVAC system tune-up done before the first bite of winter cold means that you’ll have your system ready for the season. It’s also worthwhile 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 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
  • Examining 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 HVAC system’s air filter. Filters catch dust, pet hair and other airborne debris, so changing a dirty filter with a clean one increases 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 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 nerve center of your HVAC system. You’ll want 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. Now, you’ll want to turn it on and listen for any unusual noises or signs the system is struggling to turn on.

If you have an older system, a smart thermostat is a practical investment. It can save you up to 20% on each year’s electricity bill. While a programmable thermostat adjusts settings based on the time of day, a smart thermostat also considers your behavior. Most models can be linked to your smartphone so that modifications can be made when you aren’t home. For additional safety, more sophisticated models may be joined with your smoke alarms and follow voice commands, in addition to 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 cold 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 utility costs.

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

  • Replacing old weatherstripping to ensure doors and windows are completely 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. residences don’t have enough insulation, according to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association. That can have a significant impact on your heating system, which will have to work harder to keep up during times of extremely hot or cold weather. Autumn is an ideal time to think about adding insulation, if you think your home needs it. But what are the signs your residence 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 schedule a tune-up with Service Experts, visit https://www.serviceexperts.com/.

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