As the winter season is fast approaching, it’s time to ensure that your HVAC system is ready to take on the wintertime chill. As a homeowner, it’s necessary to ensure that you get your HVAC service scheduled and that you properly keep up with your heating system’s needs throughout the chilly winter season. Otherwise, you risk dealing with an unexpected repair when your system decides to go on the fritz due to a lack of proper maintenance.
Clean Vents, Ducts, and Filters
To ensure that your furnace is adequately delivering heat to the various rooms throughout your home, you’ll need to prep your airflow. In most heating systems, cool air is brought into the ductwork and run through your air filter. Then, the air is heated, forced through the ductwork, and out into your rooms via vents.
If there is any obstruction in the path of your system’s airflow, it will drastically reduce the effectiveness of your heating system. It’s best to take some time to clean off the vents in your home and ensure that they have adequate open space around them to perform at their best. Your air filter should be replaced every couple of months. Additionally, you’ll want to have a professional clean out your ductwork every two to five years.
Seal Up Drafty Areas
One component of furnace health that many people don’t pay attention to is how drafts affect it. Whenever there are drafts around the doors and windows of your home, those drafts can drastically drop the temperature. This makes your heating system have to constantly run to try and keep up with the cold drafts coming into your home.
Before the winter season hits, it’s a great time to seal up any of those drafts throughout your home. The most common places that you’ll find drafts include around doors and windows. You can use a door sweep or weatherstripping to help block those drafts from coming into your home. The less drafting your home receives, the less your heating system has to work to maintain an adequate temperature.
Schedule Professional Furnace Maintenance
If you didn’t opt for heater installation, then you need to get your existing furnace serviced by a licensed professional. This service will entail many features, like cleaning your heat exchanger, properly venting your exhaust fumes, tightening loose wires, and so forth.
A licensed HVAC professional will have the tools, equipment, and knowledge to adequately prep your heating system to run as efficiently as possible this winter season. It’s highly recommended to schedule your HVAC service appointment during the fall months before you need to be using your heating system on a regular basis.
Program in Your Thermostat Settings
If you’re like most homeowners, you’ve invested in a programmable or smart thermostat. These are perfect for helping you to ensure that you’re running your system as efficiently as possible to save on wintertime heating bills. After you switch your thermostat from cooling to heating mode, it’s time to plan out your schedule.
It’s best to turn your heater down about 10 degrees when no one is going to be at home, such as when you’re away at work. Then, program your heater to kick back on about an hour or so before you plan to arrive back home. This will give your heater adequate time to warm your home back to a comfortable level before you walk through your door. You may also want to automatically have the temperature lowered a few degrees in the late evening hours when you go to bed.
Put Fresh Batteries in Your Alarm and Detectors
If your heating system runs on anything other than electricity, it’s necessary to have active carbon monoxide detectors in your home. These are safety measures to alert you if there is any carbon monoxide present within your home, which indicates inadequate exhaust venting or a leak somewhere in your heating system.
Additionally, you’ll want to have fire detectors as a secondary safety measure. These should be placed on each floor of your home. Make sure that you put in fresh batteries at the start of winter so that you’re assured that your detectors and alarms are active to keep your family safe and healthy.
Keep Your Furnace Surround Decluttered
Throughout the summer months, it can be easy to stack up boxes or other materials near your furnace since it isn’t running. However, as we approach winter, it’s necessary to clean out the clutter around your heating system and give it space to breathe. It’s a good idea to keep items at least 10 feet away from your furnace to greatly reduce your risk of a fire hazard. Throughout the chilly season, make it a rule not to place any items near your heating system.
Inspect Your Exhaust Flues
Most heating systems will use the process of combustion to create heat for your home. While this is a very efficient source of heat, it does produce toxic fumes. These need to be adequately vented to the exterior of your home. If left to vent indoors, this could lead to serious medical problems for your family, even resulting in death.
It’s best to head outside and check your exhaust flues. It’s not uncommon for leaves, branches, and other debris to get stuck in these flues and prevent proper venting from occurring. Before you turn your heating system on, you’ll want to clear out any debris in these exhaust flues.
Test Your Thermostat Every Couple of Months
Over time, it’s not uncommon for your thermostat to lose its calibration. When this happens, the temperature on your thermostat will read differently than the actual temperature of your home. When this happens, your heating system may constantly run because it isn’t sensing that it has reached your set temperature.
It’s good practice to test your thermostat reading every couple of months to ensure that it’s calibrated correctly. You can easily do this by using an independent thermometer inside of your home. Place it near your existing thermostat for a couple of minutes. If the reading on your thermostat is five degrees above or below the reading on your thermometer, it’s time to call in an HVAC professional to recalibrate your thermostat.
Inspect Your Exposed Ductwork
It’s highly likely that you have exposed ductwork in your basement, crawlspace, or attic. At the start of every cold season, you should plan to take some time to inspect all the exposed ducting in your home. Over time, your ducting can develop leaks, and joints can pull apart.
If you find leaks or gaps, be sure to use foil tape or ductwork sealant to cover them. Keeping your ductwork properly closed will ensure that more of the heated air makes it to the rooms throughout your home. Additionally, fewer leaks will help to decrease the amount of dirt and debris that are sucked into your ducting.
Clear Your Drainage Tube
If you have a propane or natural gas heating system, then it produces a small amount of water during operation. In many systems, this water is diverted to the drain pan for your centralized air conditioning system. Over time, this drain tube can get clogged with debris and hard water scaling.
You should use a mixture of vinegar and water to pour down the drain tube to remove this debris and scaling. It’s vital that this tube remain clear. Otherwise, it will back up water into your manifold and cause your flame sensor to shut down. This can lead to a headache of a heating system failure during the coldest of winter days.
Clean Your Flame Sensor
If you rely on natural gas to heat your home, then your heating system utilizes a flame sensor. This is a safety device that monitors when a flame is present and will shut off your gas supply when your flame goes out. Unfortunately, when this flame sensor gets dirty, it can falsely tell your natural gas valve that it needs to shut because there isn’t a flame when there really is one that it just can’t sense.
It’s very easy to locate and unscrew this sensor from your furnace. Using an emery cloth, you’ll want to carefully clean the sensor while you hold its bottom. Once cleaned, simply screw it back in and close up the access panel to your heating system. This needs to be done at least once a year to ensure that your flame sensor works correctly.
Check Fuel Levels and Re-Order When Necessary
Depending on the type of fuel that your heating system utilizes, you may need to store it on-site. This is most common for heating oil and propane. You’ll want to check your storage tank during the fall to see if it needs to be refilled. Make it a priority to check your tank once a month or schedule to be on a professional delivery route so that you don’t run out of fuel during the cold winter months.
Call for Repairs in a Timely Fashion
While not all heating systems warrant an emergency repair, that doesn’t mean that you should let the problem persist. Whenever you notice an issue with your heating system, you should have a professional come in and check it out sooner rather than later. Letting issues like weird noises or smells persist, can end up causing more expensive damage to your heating system in the long run.
As a homeowner, it’s your responsibility to ensure that you prep and properly maintain your heating system throughout the colder months of the year. By following the tips that we went over above, you’ll be on the way to a nice and toasty home while drastically reducing your risk of an unexpected breakdown.