Winter is one of the toughest seasons for homeowners across the United States. Though it means you’re able to play in the snow and enjoy warm beverages beside a roaring fire in comfort, it also means you’ll spend more on your energy bills each month.
Over the course of the winter, the average household spends between $500 and $1,500 to keep their homes comfortable. That can take a serious toll on your monthly budget if you’re not prepared.
The best thing you can do to keep your home comfortable without dramatically increasing your energy use is to take care of your HVAC system. Here are a few key HVAC maintenance tips to help you get your system ready for everything winter brings.
1. Unblock Your Vents
It’s normal for furniture to shift around throughout the year. While it can make your space more usable, changing the layout of each room can interfere with your home’s heating system.
How? By blocking the air vents that your HVAC system uses to send warm air into each room.
Before winter is in full swing, walk around each room in your home. Identify the location of each air vent in the space and make sure it’s clear and unblocked. If the furniture is in the way, consider moving it before you start using your heating system.
Remember, letting warm air blow on your furnishings throughout the winter will dry them out and shorten their lifespan. Worse, it will keep your home from getting warm quickly, thereby increasing your energy bills every month.
If you notice dust and dirt on the surface of the vents, clean them with a damp microfiber cloth or vacuum them with a brush attachment. This will help keep your indoor air quality higher throughout the winter months.
2. Check Your Air Filters
One of the best HVAC preventative maintenance tips you can follow is to check your air filters before the first freeze. Almost every central HVAC system has a series of filters in place to keep the air inside your home as clean as possible.
As your air conditioning system or heater turns on, it pulls air from outside your home. That air passes through the filters to remove contaminants like allergens, dust, mold, and plant debris before it has a chance to circulate throughout your house.
The more you use your system, the more debris those filters will catch. Over time, your filters will get dirty and the dirtier they get, the longer your HVAC system has to work to heat your home. That increases your energy use significantly.
Before the winter weather hits, inspect each filter in your home. If they look dirty, replace them with new filters as soon as possible. During the winter months, you’ll need to check those filters every month or two and replace them as needed.
3. Schedule a Professional Tune-Up
Even the most well-maintained and lightly used HVAC systems will experience wear and tear throughout the year. Over time, that wear and tear can lead to serious repair issues and cause your energy bills to increase dramatically.
The best thing you can do for your system is to schedule a professional tune-up before the temperatures drop. According to Schneider Mechanical, regular tune-ups can make your system more energy efficient and reduce the risk of unexpected breakdowns when you need it most.
During each tune-up, your repair technician will inspect your air conditioner and heater elements for damage. If they notice anything out of place, they’ll be able to make the necessary repairs quickly, so you’ll always have a reliable source of heat when the temps drop. Even better, they’ll be able to clean the unit so your heater will produce better, healthier warm air throughout the winter months.
Just make sure you work with a licensed repair technician every time. This way, you’ll be able to preserve your system’s warranty.
4. Inspect Your Thermostat
No matter what type of system you have in place, you need to make sure your thermostat is in good working order before winter. If it’s off or not working properly, you risk ending up with an overly cold house or an overly high energy bill.
Take a look at each thermostat in your house. Make sure the system turns on when you set the thermostat at specific temperatures. If it doesn’t or the system doesn’t stay on to reach your desired temperature, you’ll need to schedule a repair appointment as soon as you can.
If possible, you may want to upgrade your thermostat to a newer, programmable model. This allows you to set different temperatures at different points in the day. For example, you can set the temperature a few degrees lower than normal while you’re away and tell the thermostat to turn the heat up when you’re home from work.
Over the course of the winter, that simple change in temperature can save you hundreds of dollars on your energy bill.
5. Fix Drafts Around Windows and Doors
Drafts do more than make your home uncomfortable during the winter months. They also make your energy bill go up.
Even small leaks around your windows and doors can change the temperature in your home by several degrees. If left unrepaired, those leaks will force your HVAC system to work overtime just to keep your home comfortable. That means high energy bills every month and less comfortable rooms when it’s cold and windy.
The best thing you can do is repair those drafts ahead of time. Walk around your house and pay attention to any breezes or cold spots around the exterior doors and windows. If you notice any, try to patch them as thoroughly as you can.
If you’re not comfortable doing this on your own, hire a contractor to inspect and repair the damage. They’ll be able to fix loose window panes and warped door frames quickly.
It’s also a good idea to cover your windows with curtains once it gets dark outside. This will help insulate your home against the cold weather and keeps the warm air from seeping out of your windows.
6. Clean Your Furnace Cabinet
For most homeowners, the main furnace unit that heats the house is in a designated cabinet or cupboard to keep it from getting damaged. Unfortunately, many homeowners end up putting items inside the cabinet during the warmer months.
After all, the furnace isn’t running and the cabinet makes a great in-home storage solution to reduce clutter. However, keeping all that stuff around your furnace when you turn it on in the winter isn’t a good idea.
Your furnace needs reliable and consistent airflow and circulation to work properly. If you’re keeping stuff in the cabinet, that stuff can interfere with the airflow and keep your furnace from running well.
Before you turn it on for the season, take the time to clean out the cabinet thoroughly. Move items that aren’t related to the furnace’s operation out. Sweep and vacuum the floor around the furnace to get rid of dust and debris.
These simple steps will help you keep your furnace running smoothly all winter long.
7. Cover Your AC Condenser Unit
Your home’s air conditioner unit is under constant exposure to the elements. This is fine during the warmer months, but it can be a problem when the temperatures drop.
Believe it or not, pests and rodents like to nest inside the condenser unit during the winter. It provides them with shelter and keeps them warm even when the air outside is freezing.
The best way to prevent those infestations is to cover your condenser unit with a fitted cover. Before you put the cover in place, take the time to clean the unit thoroughly. Use a spray nozzle attached to your hose to blast away dirt and debris and let the unit dry thoroughly.
Once the components are dry, cover the condenser and secure the cover as tightly as you can. Get in the habit of inspecting the cover every few weeks. If you notice it coming loose in the wind, adjust it as needed.
8. Pay Attention to Your Unit’s Age
No matter how well you maintain your HVAC system, it will eventually need to get replaced. In fact, the average HVAC system lasts for just 15 years with routine maintenance.
The older your unit is, the less efficient it will be and the more likely it is that you’ll need emergency repairs during the winter months.
Pay attention to the age of your unit. If you can’t remember when you got it installed or know that the system is more than 15 years old, you may want to replace it before winter weather hits.
When you replace the system, you’ll reduce your risk of unexpected breakdowns and will be able to take advantage of newer, more energy-efficient technology.
Use This HVAC Maintenance Checklist Now
Keeping your home’s HVAC system in good condition is the best way to make sure you stay comfortable during the winter months. Use these simple HVAC maintenance tips before winter hits and you’ll be on the right track to keep your unit running well all season long.
If anything happens to the system or you feel overwhelmed by your HVAC maintenance plan, don’t panic. Reach out to a licensed repair technician and let them take care of the checklist for you.
For more helpful tips and tricks to make navigating winter weather easier, check out our latest posts.