When the calendar is turned over from October to November, it’s when most of us start to feel the effects of the coming winter. To exacerbate the situation, this is a very busy time of the year and things don’t seem to slow down until the new year arrives. During the busier holiday season, it can be hard to stay on top of things and the last thing you need is a problem with your heating system. Although it may seem that these potential problems just happen, this is not true and you can avoid or mitigate risks with a proactive approach. In this article, we will look at four ways to keep your home warm and cozy during the coming winter months.
1. Inspecting Your Furnace
If the thermostat is the brains of your heating system, then the furnace is certainly its beating heart. It’s a great idea to get your furnace inspected by a local HVAC specialist in the months leading up to winter. If you’ve left it too late, don’t worry it’s still warm enough right now to endure a little downtime to get the furnace checked out. Even if you have no professional heating experience, there are still some things that you can do to make sure your furnace is working correctly.
First, tidy up the area around your furnace because it tends to attract a variety of items, such as: boxes, garden furniture and other things that need a home after summer. There should be at least 3 feet of space around your furnace to ensure that it can work correctly. As an added bonus, this will give the HVAC specialist sufficient room to inspect and service the furnace.
Next, set up the humidifier for winter by turning on the water and opening up the bypass damper if your system has one. If you look closely at the damper, it should be labelled as open/close or summer/winter and these are different terms for the same settings. At this time, be very mindful of any strange odors or noises that could indicate that something is wrong. The most dangerous odor is that of “rotten eggs” which is deliberately added to gas to make it more detectable. If you can detect this foul odor, get everyone out of the home and contact your local HVAC specialist immediately.
2. Check and Replace the Furnace Filter
The furnace filter is an underestimated and essential part of your furnace. This filter prevents particulates, such as: dust, dirt, fibers, pollen and other materials from entering sensitive components. A steady supply of air is required to run your furnace efficiently and if the airflow is compromised it can cause problems.
When the furnace filter is dirty, the airflow is impeded and this can cause the furnace to work harder to push the air through the filter. When heating and cooling equipment is overworked, it consumes more energy which leads to higher energy bills. Overworked equipment is also more prone to failure, which can lead to an unexpected repair bill. This problem is easy to avoid if you replace your furnace filter every three months during the heating season. If you’re not sure about when the last change occurred, change it anyway to be on the safe side. Set a reminder on your phone or calendar to make sure that the furnace filter gets changed on time.
This is a good time to consider an upgrade to a better furnace filter to improve the indoor air quality (IAQ) in your home. Every filter has a Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating, and higher numbers remove more particulates. As an example: a filter with a MERV rating of 9-12 will remove around 95% of airborne contaminants. It is possible to go higher, but you reach the point of diminishing returns pretty quickly. A higher MERV rated filter requires more force to push the air through the denser filter media, which consumes more energy. Some furnaces are not powerful enough to handle higher MERV ratings at all. If you’re not sure, contact your local HVAC specialist and ask about cleaner air alternatives to improve the IAQ in your home.
3. Clean the Air Vents
If you take a look at the surface of your air vents, you may notice that a layer of lint and dust has formed during the summer months. It’s easy to forget about cleaning the vents, and this is especially true when it comes to spare rooms. Again, the airflow must be maintained for effective and efficient heating or cooling to take place. Many people close the vents in their unused rooms or block them with furniture. This is a mistake, it forces the system to work harder, and it can lead to uneven heating issues. Clean the vents and make sure they are not covered to improve the performance and energy efficiency of your heating system.
4. Test the Thermostat
The thermostat is the brain of your entire heating and cooling system. If the thermostat is faulty, it can cause a number of problems that you may misdiagnose as furnace related issues. The best way to test your thermostat is to set it a few degrees above room temperature and check how long it takes to adjust. The thermostat should be programmed for the new winter heating schedule, with less heating required when the home is empty. If you want to experience the ultimate in thermostat control, consider an upgrade to a new smart model. This can be monitored and controlled remotely in real time via a handy app on your favorite mobile device or computer. This can help you to improve the performance and energy efficiency to a degree that was impossible only a few years ago.
Preparing your heating system is a smart move if you want to stay cozy during the colder winter months. Scheduling an inspection to fix any potential faults and improve the energy efficiency can give you peace of mind. If you want to learn more, contact your local heating and cooling specialist today.