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 planning for the cold months ahead. Cold weather adds new demands on your heating and cooling system. To prepare your heating unit for the heavy work it will be doing, regular HVAC maintenance should be on your fall checklist. It’s crucial for your system to run efficiently in order to reduce the risk of repairs at an inconvenient or unsafe time, such as during a storm. Here, an experienced technician from Service Experts shares five questions to ask when considering furnace maintenance.

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

As soon as the cold weather arrives, many businesses focus on repairs over maintenance requests. Getting your HVAC system tune-up done before the first bite of winter cold means 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 evaluate 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
  • Examining air filters
  • Testing thermostats

2. When Was the Last Time I Changed My Air Filters?

Summer is a busy time, which means it’s easy to forget to swap out your HVAC system’s air filter. Filters catch dust, pet hair and other airborne particles, so changing a dirty filter with a clean one improves 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 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 HVAC system. 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 appropriate. At this point, you should turn it on and listen for any odd noises or clues the system is struggling to engage.

If you have an older system, a smart thermostat is a valuable product to own. It can save you up to 20% on each year’s energy bill. Although a programmable thermostat modifies settings according to the time of day, a smart thermostat also takes into account your behavior. Most models can be connected to your smartphone so that adjustments can be made remotely. For additional safety, more sophisticated designs may be linked to smoke alarms and be controlled by voice commands, among other convenient 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?

Checking your doors and windows for air leaks before the winter weather sets in can save you a headache later. Not only could leaks cause drafts, making your living space uncomfortable, 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 in the fall, you can take preventative actions before winter hits, such as:

  • Replacing old weatherstripping to make sure doors and windows are completely 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?

Around 90% of U.S. residences need more insulation, according to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association. That can have a big impact on your HVAC system, which will need 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 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 arrange a tune-up with Service Experts, visit https://www.serviceexperts.com/.

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