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 getting ready for the cold months ahead. Cold weather puts additional demand on your HVAC system. To prepare your heating unit for the heavy work it will be doing, routine HVAC maintenance should be on your fall checklist. It’s vital for your system to run efficiently in order to reduce the risk of repairs at an undesirable or unsafe time, such as during a storm. Here, a skilled specialist from Service Experts shares five questions to ask when preparing your furnace for winter.

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

Once the cold sets in, many contractors prioritize repairs over maintenance calls. Getting your HVAC system tune-up done before the first bite of winter cold assures that you will be ready for the season. It’s also beneficial 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
  • Looking at 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 change your furnace’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 elevates 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 furnace. It’s important 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 stage, it’s time to turn it on and listen for any strange noises or signs the system is struggling to turn on.

If you have an older system, a smart thermostat is a practical purchase. It can save you up to 20% on your yearly power bill. Although a programmable thermostat adjusts settings according to the time of day, a smart thermostat also considers your behavior. Most brands can be paired with your smartphone so that changes can be made when you aren’t home. For even more safety, more sophisticated smart thermostats may be linked to smoke alarms and respond to voice commands, in addition to 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 cold weather sets in can save you a headache later. Not only does this cause drafts, making your living space uncomfortable, but the cold air can also lower the temperature in your home, forcing your HVAC system to work harder and increase your heating bills.

If you find an air leak in the fall, you can take preventative steps before winter arrives, like:

  • Replacing old weatherstripping to ensure doors and windows are fully 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?

Around 90% of U.S. residences need more insulation, according to the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association. That can have a significant impact on your furnace, which will be forced to work harder to keep up during times of very hot or cold temperatures. Autumn is an ideal time to look into adding insulation, if you think your home needs it. But how can you tell when your residence 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 set up a tune-up with Service Experts, visit https://www.serviceexperts.com/.

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