Autumn is a time of transition. When the temperatures drop, the winds rise, and the leaves change color, it means air conditioning season is over, and the winter heating season is fast approaching.
In the coming months, your furnace and/or heat pump will be charged with the task of keeping your family warm and comfortable on even the coldest winter days. But there is more to home heating than just setting your thermostat at 70 degrees and letting it run night and day.
To get the most out of your heating system, you need to pamper it, customize it, and support it with smart home maintenance actions. You should get to work on all of this at least a month or two before heating season arrives to make sure your equipment is ready to function as efficiently as possible right from the first moment you need it.
Here are some pre-winter preparation tips that will put your HVAC system in prime working order and get your home ready for the long, cold months to come:
- Plug or fill all potential sources of air leakage. Use caulk and weatherstripping to fill in and around windows, doors, pipes, electrical outlets, and other areas where small air leaks can lead to big energy loss.
- Clean everything. When your home is shut up tight for the winter, your indoor air quality can deteriorate, putting your family at risk for respiratory disorders and other types of allergic reactions. To remove potential sources of contamination, clean your house thoroughly from top to bottom a few weeks before the heating season begins.
- Inspect your insulation and add more if you find gaps. Attics and basements are areas of special interest. Spray-foam insulation is probably your best bet if you decide to add more insulation, since spray-foam will penetrate and fill cracks, crevices, and small openings wherever they might exist.
- Check and clean all air vents. Over the course of the summer, your intake and output vents may become clogged with dust, dirt, and other forms of particulate matter. This can restrict air flow and reduce your HVAC systemâ€™s efficiency.
- Add a humidifier to your home comfort arsenal. Humidifiers will help improve air quality, and moist air also feels warmer than dry air, which means youâ€™ll be able to set your thermostat a few degrees lower than normal and still feel comfortable.
- Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans. They should run clockwise (at low speeds) during the winter, drawing cool air upward and forcing warm air downward. The use of ceiling fans in winter can cut heating costs down by 5-10 percent.
- Change your HVAC air filter. This should be done on a monthly or bimonthly basis during the winter months, depending on the quality of the air filter you purchase. You should avoid the cheap fiberglass models and look for something of better qualityâ€”like a pleated or electrostatic filter.
- Install double-glazed or low e-glass windows. By adding an extra pane of glass or low-emissivity glass coatings, you can cut heat loss through your windows by as much as 40 percent.
- Have your ductwork inspected and cleaned or repaired if necessary. Find a reliable duct cleaning company with good online reviews (there are scammers out there, so beware!), and make an appointment to have your ducts checked for leakage and/or excessive contamination.
- Call your HVAC contractor to arrange a full maintenance inspection of your furnace and/or heat pump. A full inspection and tune-up for your furnace and/or heat pump should be a fixture on your autumn â€œto doâ€ list.Â A trained technician can find and repair small problems before they turn into gigantic mechanical failures, while performing basic maintenance procedures that can restore your equipment to tip-top working order.