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 getting ready for the winter months ahead. Cold weather puts new demands on your heating and cooling system. To prepare your heating system for the heavy work it will soon be taking on, routine HVAC maintenance should be on your fall chore list. It’s crucial for your system to run efficiently in order to reduce the likelihood of repairs at an undesirable or unsafe time, such as during a storm. Here, a knowledgeable specialist from Service Experts shares five questions to ask when considering furnace maintenance.

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

When the cold hits the area, many companies prioritize 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 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 evaluate 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
  • Checking 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 furnace’s air filter. Filters capture dust, pet hair and other airborne particles, so replacing a dirty filter with a clean one enhances 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 changing it from cool to heat mode, setting your heating setpoints, checking your schedule on a programmable thermostat and replacing the batteries if required. 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 valuable investment. It can save you up to 20% annually on your electricity bill. Although a programmable thermostat adjusts settings based on the time of day, a smart thermostat also factors in your behavior. Most brands can be linked to your smartphone so that changes can be made even if you are away. For increased safety, more sophisticated models may be linked to smoke alarms and respond to 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?

Examining your doors and windows for air leaks before the winter weather settles in can save you a headache 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 costs.

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

  • Replacing old weatherstripping to make sure 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,” noted 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?

About 90% of U.S. homes don’t have enough 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 outstanding time to think about adding insulation, if you think your home needs more. But what are the signs 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 set up a tune-up with Service Experts, visit https://www.serviceexperts.com/.

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