You look out the window one afternoon and see storm clouds on the horizon. As you glance toward the mountains, you remember that winter isn’t that far away. Are you prepared—or, more importantly—is your home prepared for the cold and snow?
Consider Your Energy Habits
Some homeowners average their projected utility bills during the year so that each monthly bill is the same. Although this strategy may protect you from variable billing during the winter, it may disguise a few wasteful habits as well.
- Do I keep my water heater’s temperature on a safe, energy-saving setting?
- Do I use compact fluorescent light bulbs in every light fixture?
- Are my windows fully insulated?
- Does the attic have ample insulation (at the right R-value)?
- Does my home have a chimney and—if so—do inspectors/cleaners maintain the chimney annually?
- If my home uses an evaporative cooler in the summer, do I cover it tightly prior to winter?
- Have I replaced aging appliances (particularly refrigerators and HVAC systems) recently?
- Do I call an HVAC technician twice annually to inspect A/C and furnace systems?
- Do I regularly change furnace filters?
- Do I use Energy Star appliances?
If you notice too many “no” answers, pay attention. You may be overdue for a home energy audit and/or a visit from your friendly HVAC technicians.
Learn What to Expect from Your Heating Inspection
Even before summer starts to wane, you’d be well advised to call your HVAC representative. Why? Simple—HVAC technicians are always overbooked when homeowners start to switch from air conditioner use to furnace use. If you’re unsure about your furnace’s health, don’t take chances. Call early.
Once your HVAC technician arrives on the scene, expect a comprehensive heating system evaluation. Your tech carries a full checklist, including:
- Air filtration system check
- Airflow testing
- Blower inspection and testing
- Overall HVAC system condition/age concerns
- Safety system (controls check)
- Venting system check
- Electrical connectivity check
- Heat exchanger inspection
- Operation tests
- Thermostat calibration
To stay on the safe side, you should plan for a pre-winter system check every fall. Then, invite your HVAC tech back in the late spring, just before you turn on the A/C once again.
Pinpoint Other Heating Issues
As you’ll remember from the questions posed earlier, good furnace inspection is only one important step to an energy-efficient, cozy winter. Here are a few other considerations:
Check the Chimney
Not all HVAC techs are certified to check fireplaces, so make an appointment with a chimney inspector before winter arrives full blast. Your inspector can check the flue and chimney lining for creosote buildup, look for cracks in the exterior, remove moss near the chimney, and so on.
You can help by trimming overhanging tree branches so they’re nowhere close to the chimney itself.
Assess Your Attic
If you’re not sure about your home’s insulation, now’s the time to find out. If your attic uses blown-in insulation, make sure it completely covers every flat surface (you shouldn’t see bare flooring or uncovered areas). On the other hand, if you overfill your attic, you may unknowingly foster mold growth. Your HVAC representative may know a good insulation company you can call for help—so ask.
Vacuum the Vents
If your air vent system is dirty, you’ll feel the effects soon enough. You may notice an upswing in family members’ allergies, or you might see more dirt than usual near your air vents. Vacuum and dust vents regularly.
Also, never block heating vents with heavy furniture. This habit causes irregular heating, higher bills, and overheating in the furnace itself.
If this winter turns out to be colder and snowier than usual, you’ll be grateful you winterized your heating system in advance. Stay warm and comfortable by contacting an HVAC specialist sooner, not later.