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 planning for the winter months ahead. Cold weather puts even more demand on your heating and cooling system. To prepare your furnace for the heavy work it will soon be taking on, regular HVAC maintenance should be on your fall checklist. It’s crucial for your system to run efficiently in order to reduce the likelihood of repairs at an inconvenient 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?

When the cold weather arrives, many businesses prioritize repairs over maintenance calls. 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 beneficial 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 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 can get hectic, which means it’s easy to forget to swap out your HVAC system’s air filter. Filters trap 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 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 nerve center of your HVAC system. 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 they are drained. At this stage, 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 product to own. It can save you up to 20% on each year’s energy bill. Although a programmable thermostat changes settings dependent on the time of day, a smart thermostat also takes into account your behavior. Most brands can be paired with your smartphone so that modifications can be made when you aren’t home. For even more safety, more sophisticated models may be joined with your 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 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 sets in can save you a hassle 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 heating system to work harder and increase your energy costs.

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

  • 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,” 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?

Roughly 90% of U.S. households don’t have enough insulation, according to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association. That can have a big impact on your heating system, which will be forced 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 how do you know if your residence needs more insulation?

“If your attic insulation is less than seven inches deep, it’s inadequate,” Carson explained. “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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