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 cold months ahead. Cold weather puts even more demand on your heating and cooling system. To prepare your heating system for the heavy work it will need to do, routine HVAC maintenance should be on your fall checklist. It’s vital 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 skilled technician 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 give preference to repairs over maintenance appointments. 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 highly recommended 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 can get hectic, which means it’s easy to forget to change your HVAC system’s air filter. Filters catch dust, pet hair and other airborne irritants, so replacing 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 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 heating and cooling equipment. It’s a good idea to make sure it’s in proper running order by flipping it from cool to heat mode, setting your heating setpoints, checking your schedule on a programmable thermostat and replacing the batteries if appropriate. At this point, you’ll want to turn it on and listen for any unusual noises or clues the system is struggling to engage.

If you have an older system, a smart thermostat is a worthwhile product to own. It can save you up to 20% on your yearly electricity bill. While a programmable thermostat modifies settings according to the time of day, a smart thermostat also considers your behavior. Most brands can be linked to your smartphone so that changes can be made remotely. For additional safety, more sophisticated designs may be connected to smoke alarms and follow voice commands, as well as other helpful features.

“A smart thermostat is an inexpensive, but powerful intuitive device for your home,” Carson remarked. “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 could leaks 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 heating system to work harder and increase your utility expenses.

If you find an air leak now, you can take preventative steps before winter arrives, such as:

  • Replacing old weatherstripping to ensure doors and windows are completely sealed.
  • Re-caulking any cracks.
  • Closing the fireplace damper when you aren’t using it.

“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 are under-insulated, according to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association. That can have a significant 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 think about adding insulation, if you think your home needs additional protection from the elements. 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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