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Preparing for Winter: HVAC Maintenance

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Atlanta is experiencing a warmer than usual Autumn, but don’t let that fool you! Cold weather is on its way, and it’s only a matter of time before you’ll have to turn on the heat. But before you flip the switch and turn on your winter heat, make sure your HVAC system is ready for winter. There are some simple steps you can take to get the most out of your HVAC system this season, keep your gas bills down, and make sure your HVAC lasts as long as possible.

Change the Air Filter

Before you do any work on your HVAC system, make sure the power is off. Once you have the power off, it’s time to take a look at your air filter. If it hasn’t been changed all summer, don’t fret. Replacing your air filter before you crank up the heat will save you some money. When your air filter is dirty, your heater has to work extra hard to pull air into the system. Get in the habit of changing your air filter every three months. Even if you can’t see the dirt, it’s there. Replacing the filter (or cleaning a non-disposable filter) will let air flow more freely. That will get your heater working at its peak efficiency, saving you money.

Clear the Vents

Your HVAC system has two types of vents: intakes and returns. As their name suggests, intakes are where your heater pulls in air from around the house. You should have several large intake vents around your home. The returns are the smaller vents where the hot air from the heater is pumped back into your home. Keeping both of these types of vents clean will maximize the efficiency of your heater.

It’s a good idea to break out your vacuum and give a good once-over to your intakes. The intakes can collect a lot of dust. Vacuuming the off, and maybe giving them a good wiping with a damp cloth, will help the air to flow more freely to the heater. Get in the habit of wiping down the intake vents whenever you clean your house. Intake vents can harbor hidden dust that affects the air quality in your home. Also, make sure nothing is blocking the intake vents. Bedding, furniture, and toys are just some of the items that often block the intakes. Clear a space for air to easily get into your intakes.

Just like the intakes, use a vacuum and a damp cloth to clean your returns. This is also a good time to make sure that you have the right returns opened and closed to heat your home the way you want to. Opening the returns and clearing away furniture or other blockages in rooms you want to heat will let the hot air fill the room. If you have areas of your house you don’t often use, consider closing the returns. By directing air only to the returns in rooms you use, you can focus the heating power of your heater and avoid spending more than you need to on power bills.

Check the Thermostat

Before you start to run your heater full-time, take it for a test run. Pick a cold morning and turn on the heater. Set the thermostat to your preferred wintertime temperature. If the temperature reaches the level you set on your thermostat, everything is fine. If the heater is having trouble reaching your desired temperature, you may need to have it checked by a professional.

Remember, the ideal winter temperature for your home is about 68º. Setting your thermostat to 68º and wearing a light sweater will significantly decrease your gas bills. If you want to save even more, a programmable thermostat can save money by turning down the heat when you’re not using it. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that you can save 10% on your heating bill by turning down the heat 7º-10º for at least 8 hours a day. And it pays to live in Atlanta because the savings are highest in mild climates! For the best savings, set your thermostat at 68º in the morning and evening hours when you’re at home, 60º when you’re away, and 65º for sleeping. That’s right, set it a little lower to sleep. Your body needs to lower its temperature when you sleep, so keeping it cool actually helps you get the best rest.

Listen Closely

On that chilly autumn morning when you take your heater for a test run, listen carefully as the heat kicks. Listen for any banging or unusual sounds. Take a trip to your basement or wherever the heating unit is for a closer look. Check for excessive water, rattling, or anything other sand a soft, steady whirring noise. If you think something looks or sounds a little off, you may need a technician to take a look. Fixing a small problem now is a lot cheaper than fixing a big problem when your heater stops working mid-winter. Plus, you can avoid spending hours or even days in the cold while you wait to get it fixed.

If you think that anything is wrong with your heater, if the house is heating unevenly, or you are noticing unusual amounts of moisture, condensation, or dust, don’t wait. Call an HVAC specialist.  For a list of TrustDALE certified HVAC specialists, click here.