When winter arrives, your home heating system starts working around the clock. And, of course, you want to be sure this equipment will function smoothly during those long, cold months. For the best possible HVAC results, prepare your system well ahead of time.
To be more specific, here are some steps you can take in the autumn for a safe and cozy winter.
1. Heating Check
Here’s a simple procedure to start: One autumn day, set your HVAC system to its heating mode, and raise the temperature on your thermostat a few degrees. Within 60 seconds or so, you should be able to hear the heat click on.
If the heat doesn’t go on, you’ll want to make sure your furnace’s power is on. You may also want to look at the furnace’s blower, heat pump, and fan. And don’t forget to examine the wires underneath your furnace: They might not be connected tightly.
Even if the heat turns on right away, you should give your whole furnace an examination. That way, you can feel confident that everything is in working order.
In particular, check to see if the venting pipe is attached firmly. And you might even sniff the gas line to make sure it doesn’t smell like rotten eggs. If that odor is present, it could be telling you that gas is leaking.
2. Clean Out the Drainage Tube
As you’re doing this inspection, your drainage tube deserves special attention.
Your furnace releases moisture as it’s working, and that water goes through the drainage tube and into a drip pan. However, if this tube is stopped up, the water has nowhere to go, and your furnace might stop functioning.
With that in mind, you could detach your drainage tube and clean it out. One method is to spray compressed air through it. And, while you’re at it, you could blow compressed air through the drain pipe as well.
3. Take Care of the Flame Sensor
The flame sensor only has one job, but it’s a really important job. If this sensor notices that the furnace’s flame has gone out, it will shut the machine off.
That’s because, with no flame going, the gas won’t burn. Instead, it could just seep out. And the people inside your home could suffer carbon monoxide poisoning. Or the gas could explode.
On the other hand, if your flame sensor is dirty, the furnace might not work at all. Therefore, it’s great to clean it at least once a year. You can unscrew the flame sensor and use an emery cloth, which is an abrasive material, to scrub it.
4. Check Out Your Chimney
At some point, you’ll want to look inside your chimney for blockages.
Soot, tiles or bricks that have fallen, bird or rodent nests, and other objects inside your chimney can make your whole heating system less efficient. Worse, such items can become fire hazards. So get ready for a little chimney cleaning if need be!
5. Show Your Heating Vents Some Tender Loving Care
Go all around your home and check out every heating vent. None of your vents should be blocked by furniture or any other object. When a room’s vent is obstructed, less heat will enter that space. Blocked heating vents could even cause a furnace to overheat.
Now is a good time to dust and clean all of your heating vents, too.
Furthermore, if you have children, you could remind them not to block any vents. That’s especially true if you have vents on your floor. It’s easy to drop blankets, toys, and other objects onto floor vents.
6. Switch Out the Air Filters
Does your HVAC system have air filters? Those filters might be located in your ceiling or in a wall. Or your HVAC system might have its own filter.
If one or more air filters are a part of this system, you should change them at least four times a year, once per season. In fact, some HVAC experts recommend changing the air filters once every month.
If you have unclean filters, the heated air won’t travel through your ducts properly, making your whole house feel cooler. Plus, dirty filters could jam your entire HVAC system, which could then lead to damage that’s expensive to fix. In particular, unclean filters often cause fan motors to overwork themselves, which can lead to overheating.
Moreover, when air filters aren’t clean and pristine, the air inside your home could contain various pollutants and toxins. And, if anyone in your household has an allergy or another respiratory condition, that impure air could make breathing more difficult. In short, with clean air filters, your entire HVAC system should run better and last longer. Not to mention, new filters can reduce a household’s monthly energy costs by up to 15%.
Alternatively, your HVAC system might have a permanent filter. In that case, you could simply remove that filter once every few months, wash it thoroughly, and reattach it. On top of all that, you might own a humidifier. If so, you ought to change your humidifier filter four times per year as well.
7. Look Over Your Heat Exchanger
You’ll want to examine your heat exchanger as part of your HVAC prep routine. Verify that its surface isn’t broken anywhere. If there’s a crack, even a small one, carbon monoxide could seep out of it.
After you study your heat exchanger, you can clean it out. (You might be noticing a pattern here!)
8. Take Care of the Blower Motor and the Burners
Does your furnace blower motor need lubrication? If you’re not sure, you can always look it up in your manual.
To lubricate the motor, first turn the power off. Then you can open the cover, take each of the caps off, and apply lubricating oil to the bearings. A lubricated blower motor will work better, and it will be quieter as it works.
By the way, before you put the caps back on, it’s a great idea to clean them.
In addition, throughout the warm weather months, dust and other particles can settle all over the burners of a furnace. Therefore, you should also clean your burners before winter arrives.
9. Cover Your AC Condenser
Be sure to cover your outdoor air conditioning condenser before the first snow of the season. For instance, you could use a board — maybe one that you cut out of plywood — and strap it into place. That way, the condenser will be safe from falling branches and ice throughout the season.
Just be sure that your AC condenser can breathe. For example, you wouldn’t want to cover it with a tarpaulin made of plastic. That tarp would cause moisture to build up. And, when you turn on your air conditioner next spring, the condenser might not work as well.
On the other hand, if you have a heat pump outside, don’t cover it. That pump works all through the year.
10. Consider Your Doors and Windows
Keep in mind that the right environment can help your HVAC equipment. In particular, seal your doors and windows. Plus, look for gaps in your walls and seal those, too. And it might help to replace your attic insulation as well as your weatherstripping.
With all of these pieces in place, your home will be in the best possible shape for retaining and circulating heat.
11. Getting Professional Help
Of course, all the steps above are important for your HVAC system’s well-being — and for your family’s well-being. But they’re also time-consuming to complete, and they require at least some degree of HVAC knowledge. It’s all too easy to make a mistake and to actually make the situation worse.
Thus, if you don’t know much about furnaces and HVAC systems, it’s much more effective and much safer to call for a professional inspection.
The right HVAC pros will certify that everything is in good shape, and they’ll replace or repair anything that must be replaced or repaired. They’ll also do their work quickly and efficiently. You might even want them to do annual HVAC maintenance for you.
These technicians could also handle the installation of any outdated HVAC parts. Old-fashioned pieces of heating equipment can be less effective, and they might drive up your utility bills. For instance, you could replace a manual thermostat with a programmable set-back thermostat, one that can automatically turn itself down as needed.
John and Brooke Wenman founded Wenbrooke Services in 2015. Since our launch, we’ve developed a reputation for outstanding value and excellent heating, cooling, and electrical work. We also provide top-of-the-line customer service at all times.
At Wenbrooke, all of our employees are true experts and caring people. And we’ll make sure you’re warm and toasty on even the coldest and darkest of Maryland nights.