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 places even more 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 probability of repairs at an undesirable or unsafe time, such as during a storm. Here, an experienced specialist 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 contractors focus on 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 furnace maintenance. 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 change your HVAC system’s air filter. Filters capture dust, pet hair and other airborne irritants, 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 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 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 necessary. At this point, you’ll want to turn it on and listen for any strange noises or clues the system is struggling to engage.

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 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 even if you are away. For added safety, more sophisticated models may be joined with your 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 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?

Checking your doors and windows for air leaks before the winter weather sets in can save you a hassle later. Not only does this cause drafts, making your living space unpleasant, but the cold air can also lower the temperature in your home, forcing your HVAC system to work harder and increase your utility bills.

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

  • Replacing old weatherstripping so 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. homes are under-insulated, according to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association. That can have a significant impact on your HVAC system, which will need 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 schedule a tune-up with Service Experts, visit https://www.serviceexperts.com/.

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