Winter is almost here. Is your HVAC ready? The long nights and cold winds mean your heating system will be working overtime. The last thing anyone wants is for their furnace to quit working in the middle of a snowstorm. An hour of maintenance can go a long way in preventing or predicting problems down the road, and it can also help reduce your energy costs in the process.
Give It Space
HVAC systems need room to breathe. As a rule of thumb, you need to move anything on top of the heater and clear everything in a three-foot radius around it. You’re trying to reduce the risk of fire and maximize airflow. Your heater depends on unrestricted air moving through it. That will help it run better and keep your costs down.
Check the Smoke Detector
Before you decide to turn on your heater, you need to test your smoke alarms and your carbon monoxide detector. Make sure they’re running properly and replace their batteries if necessary. Once you’ve turned on the system, you should do a walk-through of your home to see if you smell gas anywhere, as that could indicate a dangerous leak.
When it comes to keeping your system operating smoothly and safely, there’s no substitute for a professional inspection. However, these precautions will go a long way to keep you and your family safe and catch problems before they develop.
Inspecting the Unit
You can fix a lot of simple problems with your heating unit yourself, simply by carefully looking through the system. If you have a furnace, you’ll want to look over the exhaust pipe and the chamber itself for structural problems and any buildup of soot or other materials.
The most important parts of furnace maintenance are identifying possible leaks and clearing out accumulated soot that blocks air and creates a fire hazard. If you see something wrong and don’t know how to deal with it, don’t hesitate to get professional help.
Keep Vents Clear
For proper heating, you need your vents clear and unobstructed. If you can check inside the vents, you can clear out anything that shouldn’t be there. You should also go through your home and ensure you don’t have any household objects blocking the outside of the vents. That heat won’t do you any good if it’s not being circulated efficiently.
Try It Out Before It’s an Emergency
Turn on your furnace or heating unit at least once or twice before you really need it, just to make sure that it’s working properly. The last thing you want is to find out your heater won’t turn on or heat effectively the day before a blizzard hits. Give it a test run and find out how it’s running.
Open the Blinds
If your heater isn’t doing the job on its own, or you’re starting to see your energy bill climb a little too high for comfort, there are other ways you can help your home heat up and make it a little easier on your heating unit.
One simple solution is to open the blinds in the morning when the sun is shining. The sunlight will shine through the windows and help heat your home naturally. Your blinds and curtains block the transfer of heat between your home and the outside, so you don’t want them between you and the sun. However, that’s also the reason you should close the blinds at night to keep out the cold and retain heat more efficiently.
Change That HVAC Filter
Change the filters regularly. This should be done at least twice per year, typically in the spring and in the fall. This ensures that the air is flowing through the unit as efficiently as possible. When changing the filter, be sure that the arrows in the new filter are facing the same as the old one was. The arrows indicate the direction the air should flow through the filter. If the filter is placed in backward, it will force your unit to work twice as hard to get any air to flow through.
Upgrade your Thermostat
If you still have a manual thermostat, now is the time to upgrade to a programmable one. Using a programmable thermostat controls the temperature and only uses your HVAC system when it is needed. This saves in energy costs and in the use of your unit.
If you already have a programmable thermostat, consider checking your settings. Be sure that it is set to the appropriate temperatures and times of the day.
Consider Creative Heating Options
Winter can be hard on any kind of heating unit. If the warm air is leaking from your home somehow, your heater will have to work extra hard, and you’ll see your bill going up. Try to keep your house sealed and insulated, and maybe give your system a little time off if it warms up occasionally.
This helps save on energy costs, use of your unit, and is more environmentally friendly. If your system is struggling to heat the whole house efficiently, you can also drop the temperature a couple of degrees and compensate with smaller, individual heaters or extra blankets at night. A few simple energy-saving tips can make a world of a difference when your bill arrives.
The HVAC system is an intricate integration of many working parts. If one of these parts does not work well, it can affect the functionality of the entire unit. Having your unit inspected by a professional yearly can help prevent or detect future malfunctions that may not be visible to an untrained individual.