Fall is officially upon us and that means the air is going to start to take on a chill. While this season is welcome by many people, it also means that winter is right around the corner and it’s time to make sure that your HVAC system is primed to do its job in the cold months of the year. You want to be sure that you’ve got the heat you need, when you need it, and avoid breakdowns at the worst possible time.
Let’s check out some tips, tricks and strategies to make sure you’re ready for the chilly months, and learn how to prepare your HVAC for fall and winter.
PREPARE A HEATING SYSTEM FOR FALL
We’d all like to assume that our furnace will work when we need it and keep our house warm all winter long. Sometimes, it isn’t quite that simple. The good news, however, is that keeping your heating system in good working order isn’t hard. Just like any complex piece of equipment, it needs regular basic maintenance, some of which you can perform on your own, and some of which may require a quick visit from a pro.
REPLACE YOUR AIR FILTER
Your furnace air filter should be replaced four times a year—every three months. A good way to remember this is to time it with the change of seasons. Whenever there’s a new season change, at an equinox or solstice, change your air filter. Make it part of your annual plan to mark those changes. This will help to maximize your system’s efficiency.
A dirty air filter doesn’t just make your system work less efficiently. It also makes it have to work much harder for a similar result, which in the end can create serious problems as it will eventually wear out from overworking. It will raise your utility bills and can cost thousands to replace a broken system.
TURN DOWN THE THERMOSTAT
Another tip is to turn down the thermostat. Just turn it down by one or two degrees; you probably won’t notice the difference, but your furnace will! Your utility bills can decrease by up to 2% per month per degree you turn it down, and it will contribute to the efficiency of your HVAC system by making it work less hard to achieve the desired result. You can always grab a blanket for extra warmth or cuddle with a loved one!
When you’re going to be away, at work or out of town, turn it down even further. A programmable thermostat can let you set the temperature as low as you like when you’re not home, and then will automatically raise it when you’re on your way. This will keep your utility bills down, while letting you stay comfortable all the time!
Draughty windows and doors are one of the leading causes of high utility bills and overworked furnaces. The object isn’t just to heat your home, but to keep cold air from invading. Any leaks or cracks you have will let warm air get out while letting cold air sneak in. This requires your furnace to work much harder to keep up, and will not only raise your utility bills, but cause an unnecessary waste of energy in a world where living green is becoming more important every day.
In most cases, you don’t need to go overboard in sealing your house. A few bucks invested in weather stripping and caulking can go a long way. Take a few minutes before it gets too cold to check out your roof and chimney to be sure your shingles and pointing are in good shape, and arrange for repairs early.
CLEAN YOUR GUTTERS AND CHIMNEY
While we’re on the topic of checking your roof and chimney, clean out your gutters to get rid of fall leaves and other debris that could clog and damage your drainage systems, resulting in water leaking into the house. Clean out the debris and flush the gutters with water to be sure everything is properly aligned.
If you have a fireplace in your house, make sure the chimney is clean. A dirty chimney, or one that’s clogged by bird’s nests or other impairments can not only raise your utility bills, it can actually be dangerous. A clogged chimney is a fire hazard and increases the risk for carbon monoxide buildup.
CHECK THE OUTSIDE UNIT
If you have a heat pump or other external unit, check it outside before it gets too cold. Make sure it’s not damaged and that no debris is blocking it up or interfering with its function. Turn off the power, rinse out dirt, twigs, leaves and other yard debris that may have accumulated over the months, and watch for more serious damage that might need repairs.
CHECK YOUR DUCTWORK
Your ductwork is likely found in either your attic or basement (sometimes both) and is the pathway for heating and cooling in your home. When your ducts aren’t properly sealed, prepared and organized, you can actually lose up to 20% of the airflow that serves to regulate temperature in your home. By making sure your ducts are sealed, you can save well over $100 per year on your energy bills.
CLEAR YOUR HEATING VENTS
Finally, check all the heating vents and exchanges in your home to be sure that they’re not blocked. A blocked heating vent can prevent the necessary air circulation to keep your home warm. This will also cause your furnace to work harder than it needs to, as well as create fire hazards by causing your furnace to overheat.
CHECK THE BATTERIES IN YOUR ALARMS
Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are important safeguards in any home. Every time you change the filters in your furnace, you should also check the batteries in your alarms. In addition, you should replace smoke and carbon monoxide detectors every ten years to be sure that you always have the most effective technology available.
To test your alarms, simply push the “test” button on the front. If it sounds, then your batteries are good. If it doesn’t, it’s time for new batteries!
TEST YOUR SYSTEM
Test your furnace before it gets too cold. Just turn it on, turn it up, and make sure it kicks on and blows hot air. The first time you activate your system for the year, it could take a few minutes to actually kick on. This is simply because it sat idle for months on end and it’s getting back into the swing of things. If it doesn’t turn on, then you know you need to get service before the weather gets too cold!
CALL IN AN HVAC PROFESSIONAL
It’s a good idea to have your system serviced at least once a year. When the fall months arrive, call your local HVAC professional to have them come in and do a thorough inspection and cleaning of your entire system. They will make sure there is no dirt, grime or contaminants clogging the system, they’ll check your filters, and they’ll make sure all the parts are moving and working right.
They will turn on the power and let it run for a bit to be sure it’s all working correctly. Don’t panic if you notice a dusty smell or ozone. That’s normal as it clears out the system after months of sitting idle. As long as it’s blowing heat with a strong air flow, that’s what’s important. The technician can also clean your air ducts as necessary and tend to any major repairs you need.
If you’re in the Las Vegas area and you need help to prepare your heating for fall, Legacy Air can help. We provide full-service HVAC cleaning, maintenance and installation. Don’t forget to ask about our Family & Friends program that includes ongoing service and discounts on parts and labor! Get in touch with us to schedule your appointment today.