Winter is coming and it’s time to start preparing. To avoid unexpected problems with your HVAC system, make sure it’s in tip-top shape during the cold winter months.
Your furnace should be ready for winter, especially at night when temperatures drop. An unmaintained furnace can waste energy and prove very costly. It can also release dangerous fumes, adding to potential winter health problems. Luckily, there are things you can do to check your system and get ready while there’s still time.
Use this checklist to help prepare for winter:
- Replace filters – Always change the filters regularly. It’s a fairly easy and inexpensive job, and a clean filter keeps dirt out of the system while promoting good airflow. This makes the system more efficient, lowering your heating and maintenance costs and extending the life of your furnace. A good rule of thumb is to replace filters when the seasons change. It’s wise to inspect them every month and replace them earlier, if necessary.
- Inspect the chimney – Check the fireplace to make sure there hasn’t been a potentially dangerous buildup of debris and soot. Soot can accumulate in a chimney and cause blockages, allowing toxic fumes (e.g. carbon monoxide) to reenter your house. Also be on the lookout for any fire hazards (like birds’ nests) inside or atop your chimney. Pests may also fall into the chimney and die, creating the need for calling animal control or a pest removal company.
- Seal all air leaks – Leaks in the house allow air to escape, lowering the heat inside and wasting precious energy. Inspect the house thoroughly for any leaks (e.g. drafty windows, damaged weather stripping around doors, and gaps around chimneys and flues). Consider adding extra insulation (especially in the attic and basement) to remove or reduce air leaks that compromise the house’s heating efficiency. If you haven’t been in the attic for a while (and you’ve heard scurrying or squeaking up there) it’s wise to call a pest service for inspection before you have your duct service professionals replace the insulation.
- Clean the windows – Let in sunlight by clearing your windows of dust and dirt. Sun exposure helps heat up the house, reducing the strain on your heating system. It also helps you save money on energy costs. Focus on the south side of the house where you can best maximize the amount of light.
- Adjust the thermostat – Try to establish one temperature at which your household feels comfortable. If you like your home to be around 70 degrees (or about 20 Celsius) year round, don’t hike your thermostat when the colder months hit. You can save money by investing in a programmable thermostat. Consult a professional duct service to suggest the most cost-effective thermostat settings.
- Dust the house – During fall, you might be tempted to open the windows and let in some air. If you do, it’s a good idea to clean the interior of the house thoroughly to remove any dust and dirt that enters. Debris can enter the HVAC system and build up in the ducts, affecting air quality. In the winter, you’ll be spending much of your time indoors with the windows shut, allowing dust to recirculate through the system. This can make it harder for the furnace to provide heat. Recirculating dust can also affect your health if you suffer from allergies. Dust every surface in the house before activating your system. Clean the air ducts as well to avoid recirculating dirt already present in the system.
- Check components – Inspect the components of your heating system (e.g. gas/oil connections, heat exchanger, and burner combustion). These systems can be fire hazards if they aren’t working properly — especially the gas and oil connections. Damaged and dirty parts can reduce the system’s efficiency, increasing your energy bills. Take care of furnace components to improve their performance and ensure that they operate safely. Proper maintenance also keeps the furnace in working order, thus increasing its lifespan.
- Inspect the outdoor unit – Debris such as leaves, sticks, and grass can get trapped inside a heating system’s outdoor unit. This can impact airflow and make the furnace less efficient, resulting in higher energy costs. Before winter arrives, check the outdoor unit and vents for any obstructions. Use a stiff brush to remove plant matter to ensure good airflow once temperatures drop.
- Install carbon monoxide detectors – Carbon monoxide leaks are a significant danger, and detectors are required in most homes. Install them in main areas of the house to warn your family of a leak, and check them every 30 days to ensure they’re in working order. Change the batteries as needed.
- Clear space around the furnace – If you use the furnace room for storage, clear any obstructions and instruct children not to play anywhere near that area. Refrain from storing flammable objects (e.g. gas, paint, or glue) in the room. Also have the vent pipe checked to ensure that there are no combustibles inside it.
- Test the controls – Turn on the furnace to test how well it works before the weather gets cold, and check the system for any issues that need to be addressed. Look for any suspicious sounds or smells that might indicate mechanical problems or leaks in the system. If you find problems, hire professional HVAC services to inspect and repair your unit.
- Schedule routine checkups – Furnace systems need regular maintenance to operate at peak efficiency. Contact a professional HVAC company and schedule routine checkups to keep your furnace operating as it should. For best results, have the system inspected at least twice a year, ideally in spring and fall.
Your furnace needs maintenance to guarantee that it is suitable for winter. You can do a basic inspection and some minor tasks yourself, but contact HVAC services for more complex issues. Furnaces are sensitive, and you can do damage if you try to repair or clean them yourself. For safe, reliable HVAC repair and cleaning, contact Dr. Duct.
It’s vital to have healthy, breathable air. Dr. Duct provides cleaning and maintenance for air ducts and furnaces to make them work more effectively. We are dedicated to providing first-class service. Rest easy knowing that your system will operate longer and more efficiently when we’re maintaining it. Contact us at (613) 845-0707. We provide free estimates.