Winter is just around the corner, and prepping your system ahead of time ensures that you and your family experience comfort indoors during the cold months ahead. Creating regular checkups with a certified technician throughout the year is your best bet. Since a heating system inspector does not check your furnace every day, the following steps will help your HVAC system runs efficiently until your next scheduled appointment:
1. Check the filter.
Look for visible dirt on the filter. Check the vent located near the filter for debris and dust. If the filter looks dirty, or you see an excessive amount of dust, it is time to get a new filter. It is always a good idea to buy one or two extra furnace filters for your heating system before snowy weather approaches.
Think of filters the same way that you think about batteries for your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. October is an opportune time to change the filter in your HVAC system, the batteries in your smoke alarms and the batteries in your carbon monoxide detectors.
2. Dust all the vents in your house.
Warm air flows through clean, uncluttered vents. A simple task like dusting the vents can create a warmer home environment for you and your family this winter. Use your regular household duster to dust all the vents. Furniture and blankets placed in front of vents prevent warm air from escaping into your home. So, make it a point to move any objects blocking vents that are located near the floor.
3. Perform a quick thermostat check.
Remember that your heating system operates at its best when the thermostat works correctly. You may run into serious problems if the thermostat is faulty. You can test the thermostat by paying closer attention to how it responds when you turn it on. If the temperature in your room registers at 70 degrees, turn your thermostat to 73 or 74 degrees.
Listen for the heating system to kick on. Schedule an appointment with your HVAC professional if the furnace does not make any sound after you turn the thermostat up. An inspector may need to repair the system or even install a new unit. A necessary installation before the colder weather causes freezing temperatures is your best option.
4. Get a new thermostat.
Some older, mercury-operated thermostats are now thought of as unsafe according to modern standards. If your thermostat is an antique relic, contact your repair technician for an installation of a new device that works with greater efficiency.
Consider installing a set-back thermostat that enables you to monitor the room’s temperature. You can also use the automatic option on a set-back thermostat, which is handy if you need to go somewhere for the weekend or during the night when everyone is sleeping. Additionally, a set-back thermostat will reduce your heating bill during the colder months. Plus, modern thermostats include a place to install backup batteries.
5. Remember to check the heat exchanger.
Brushing and vacuuming a heat exchanger is an important step when you want to prep your heating system for winter. Look at the exchanger with a flashlight to determine if there are visible cracks. Do not attempt to clean the heat exchanger if you are not sure how to go about the task. You are better off contacting an HVAC professional to take care of this for you. Cracks in the heat exchanger can cause carbon monoxide to leak into the atmosphere, so setting up an appointment with a technician makes common sense.
6. Does the blower require lubrication?
If you have an owner’s manual, check to see if your motor requires lubrication. If so, a visit from a technician can readily take care of this problem for you. A service person will apply oil to the bearings and also clean the caps.
7. Check to see if the pilot light is turned on.
You will not have to perform this step if you have a newer HVAC system that does not have a gas pilot light. If you have an older system, it is safer to contact a technician to get the pilot light working again.
8. An oil-powered furnace requires special attention.
An oil unit needs additional maintenance that is not needed if you have a gas HVAC system. If you own an oil-powered unit, you will need to replace your filter and nozzle and check the tank level. A technician will change the oil filter, clean the nozzle and brush the heat exchanger.
9. Prepare your fireplace before cold weather sets in.
Get rid of debris cluttering up the fireplace. In the first place, you should never allow items to clutter the fireplace because safety is of paramount importance. Now is a good time to move all clutter to a new location or even have a garage sale.
Fireplace and wood stove gaskets should close tightly. You can check this with the old dollar bill trick. The bill should not pull out easily. If it does, you either need to adjust or replace the door.
10. Do yourself a favor by hiring an experienced chimney sweep.
Hiring a chimney sweep to clean out the chimney this time of year is an excellent idea. You probably do not want to do this task yourself because cleaning a chimney entails working in an atmosphere filled with excessive amounts of soot and dust.
Chimney sweeping requires special skills. Chimney sweeps wear protective clothing and know how to protect themselves. You do not want to take any unnecessary chances cleaning a chimney yourself unless you have extensive experience as a chimney sweep.
11. Make preparations before winter sets in.
Maintain everything you can think of before it starts snowing. Maintaining a home is important even if you live in an area where it does not snow because rain and colder temperatures are still issues. Use weatherstripping material to seal the front door, backdoor and windows located throughout your house.
If you have a ceiling fan in the living room, it needs to rotate clockwise rather than counterclockwise. When the ceiling fan rotates properly, warmer air tends to blow in a downward direction.
12. October is a good month to inspect the attic.
Hire a professional to replace any insulation material that looks worn out. A well-insulated attic provides your family with a warmer house during the colder months of the year. If you recently purchased an older home, you may want to have a professional inspect the insulation materials to make sure they do not include asbestos or other harmful carcinogens.
13. Regular maintenance ensures proper efficiency.
You can prevent your system from experiencing a breakdown by working with your preferred maintenance technician throughout the year. Maintaining your system once or twice a year will keep your equipment operating smoothly. A technician will inspect everything to ensure that the proper heat will protect your family during inclement weather conditions. Regular inspections also protect your loved ones from dangerous exposure to carbon monoxide.
14. Open online accounts for emergency shopping needs.
You may not always have the option to drive to a store. Weather conditions may cause hazardous driving conditions you will want to avoid if at all possible. You can open one or more accounts with vendors that provide online shopping and delivery services. Some online merchants can deliver groceries to your home on the same day you place an order. An online shopping account is a good idea, especially at times when you are unable to get to a supermarket or department store in person. Plus, an online account can provide you with fast delivery of a new smoke alarm or carbon monoxide detector should one of them suddenly stop working.
15. Buy a battery-operated radio.’
If you do not already own a battery-operated radio, now is the time to make this inexpensive purchase. You never know when the electric company is going to turn off your electricity without any warning. You do not want to go out in a snowstorm to buy a radio. An old-fashioned radio can provide your family with entertainment, news and weather updates if your cable service stops working.
A battery-operated radio can also keep you informed when your cell phone battery stops working because of an outage. Your ability to watch live streaming may also feel the effect of an electricity shutdown. So, it is a good idea to own a laptop or Chromebook that keeps a full battery charge for 10 or more hours. You should also have a good flashlight and the appropriate batteries in an emergency.
16. Prepare for HVAC malfunctions and all types of emergencies.
Keep plenty of bottled water on hand. If you do not already own a manual can opener, now is the time to spend a few dollars and buy one. A manual can opener is a necessity during an electrical power outage in winter because you can always use it to open canned beans, spinach, peaches and tuna.
Keep plenty of snacks in your kitchen cupboard, including crackers, pretzels, potato chips, cereal, graham crackers and cookies. Buy no-stir peanut butter that does not require refrigeration because you should avoid opening the refrigerator door during a power outage. Water and food are necessities that may become scarce during a severe winter storm.
17. Keep your family warm with extra coats and blankets.
Make sure you have plenty of blankets in case your furnace stops working. Even though you may have tried your best to maintain the unit, it is impossible to know when something may suddenly malfunction. A good supply of warm coats and blankets ensures that your children will stay warm even if a malfunctioning furnace causes your house to feel unusually cold.
18. Buy batteries before cooler temperatures set in.
Keep extra batteries of all types in your house before winter sets in. You will need AA batteries for the television remote controls and most smoke alarms. Some older smoke alarms require 9-volt batteries, so check them ahead of time to discern which types of batteries they need. In addition, your carbon monoxide detector probably requires AA batteries. Remember to test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors by pressing the test buttons once or twice a month.
19. Make an appointment to get your furnace tuned up.
Maintaining your furnace gives you peace of mind in knowing that your spouse, children and pets feel comfortable during snowy or cold weather. You may also save money on heating bills because even slight glitches can cost more money to operate. It is better to maintain your unit before any minor problems become serious. Otherwise, you may find yourself facing expensive repair work.
20. An installation of a new HVAC system may become a necessity.
Maintenance is the key to preventing unwanted repair bills or the installation of a new unit right before winter begins. If repairs become too costly, you may need to upgrade and have a new system installed. A system requiring extensive repair work may need replacement. You will then have to pay for new heating equipment and installation expenses.
You can eliminate a good percentage of unexpected heating system issues by setting up a regular maintenance schedule today. When the topic centers on cold temperatures, heating system maintenance is the key to preventing unexpected problems.