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6 Tips to Get Your Home Heating System Ready for Winter

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Here in Atlanta, summer and fall can stretch well into November. But winter will come, and when the temperature drops, you'll be reaching for that thermostat. Everyone wants to stay warm and cozy in the winter, but no one wants to break the bank doing it. Before you fire up your home heating system, here are six tips to get your home heating system ready for winter.

6 Tips to Get Your Home Heating System Ready for Winter [infographic][

1. Swap Out Old Filters

If you haven't thought about your HVAC system in a while, now is an excellent time to pay your home heater a visit. Find your heating unit in a basement or closet, and take a look at the air filter. If you haven't changed it in the last three months, it's time for a new air filter.

Air filters don't have to be expensive. You can get them at any hardware or home improvement store, and even some supermarkets. Pull out the old filter and check its size, so you can be sure the new one you purchase will fit your heater.

Air filters come with a MERV rating (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value). The higher the rating, the smaller particles the filter can remove from the air passing through it. Building codes require a minimum MERV 6 for residential buildings, though we recommend at least a MERV 8 filter. For superior air quality, look for a MERV 10 filter. Finer filters can require more energy to pull air through, but most home heating systems should work efficiently with a MERV 10 filter.

2. Reprogram Your Thermostat

During the summer and fall, you may have set your thermostat to keep temperatures from getting too high. Now that colder weather is on the way, it is time to reprogram that thermostat to keep your home from getting too cold.

While some like it hot, during the winter months, it makes sense to turn down the heat a little. You can save about 2% on your energy bill for every degree you turn down the thermostat. If you had the maximum temperature for summer set to 74º, consider turning your heater to 72º or 70º for the winter.

The best way to control the temperature in your home is with a programmable thermostat. When the home will be empty, usually during the middle of the day, set the thermostat to 68º. Program the thermostat to return to your desired temperature about one hour before you arrive home. You can also set the temperature lower during the night when people are sleeping. Sleep specialists recommend sleeping in a cooler environment for better sleep, so adjusting the heat down a few degrees will save energy and help you sleep.

3. Check for Leaks

You would never throw open your doors and windows while you have the heat on. But if your home is leaky, you could be losing lots of heat to the great outdoors. It can be hard to find where your home is leaking air when the weather is temperate. But when it's cooler out, like on a cold day or at night, walk around your home, stopping by windows and doors, and see if you feel a draft. Make sure that the weather stripping on doors and windows is in good shape and not cracked or missing.

If you have a chimney, check to see if you feel cold air coming from the chimney. Finally, check your attic. If your attic is adequately sealed, heat won't be escaping into ti from the warm house below. Your attic should be quite cold.

It can be hard to identify all leaks. A home efficiency expert, or even most home heating specialists, can help you find and seal any leaks in your home.

4. Seal Your Ducts

Even if you have sealed your home, if your ducts aren't sealed, you could be losing lots of hot air. Your ducts are usually tucked away in a basement, attic, or even inside walls. So checking for leaks is not an easy task. Your HVAC professional can help you find and fix leaks in your duct system. Sealing off ducts can save you over $100 on your annual heating bill.

In addition to sealing ducts, make sure ducts have adequate insulation. Even a sealed duct can lose heat if it is not insulated.

5. Make Sure Vents Aren't Blocked

Your heater may be functioning correctly, and your ducts may be completely sealed, but if your heating vents are blocked, the hot air will never get in to warm your home. Take a stroll around your home and locate all the heating vents. Make sure that furniture or other objects don't block them. At the same time, be sure to close vents in rooms that you won't be using. Directing the hot air to where you will be using it is a great way to save on energy. There's no need to heat an unused guest room or bonus room that you aren't using.

6. Schedule a Service Visit With an HVAC Professional

It is a good idea to have your HVAC system inspected and serviced at least twice a year, spring and fall. A full inspection by an HVAC professional can uncover problems you might not notice on your own. Catching problems early can save you time, money, and the trouble of a broken-down heating system in the middle of winter. Try one of these TrustDALE certified HVAC companies, and schedule your inspection and service visit today.