You rely on your HVAC all year long. But now is when your HVAC is relying on YOU to take the necessary steps to keep it healthy all winter long. Here are six things you should do right now to prepare for the heating season ahead:
1. Change the air filters
The ones with MERV ratings between 8 and 11 are the most cost-effective (see our post Selecting an Air Filter). Not only will you boost your indoor air quality and reduce energy costs, but dirty air filters are the primary reason heating systems fail.
Keep your outdoor unit free of leaves, grass, and debris. Clean the coils with a garden hose (see our post The Low-down on Coil Cleaning). Make sure your indoor unit (furnace) is not covered with debris, too. Do not store anything flammable - paint, paint thinners, rags, glues, gasoline, cleaning solvents, and other chemicals - near your furnace. Keep at least 2-3 feet of clearance all the way around your indoor and outdoor units.
3. Address air flow issues
Make sure all the registers are open in all rooms, and that they are unblocked by furniture, drapes or debris (see our post on Vents, Registers & Grilles). Find and seal leaks everywhere throughout your home: leaks in your HVAC's ductwork, leaks around windows and doors (weather-stripping), around plumbing (caulking), and electrical outlets. Leaks especially in the ductwork as well as blocked vents make your HVAC work harder and could cause it to fail earlier. Plus, it wastes energy and money, and decreases your overall comfort.
4. Check the condensate drain line
Water that condenses during the operation of a heat pump or furnace is pumped into a drain line. Verify that the drain line is clear and that there is a clean reservoir in the pump. Bacteria and algae often block the condensate from draining, so clean it with bleach and add a few drops of an algaecide. Keep the drain line from freezing, too. If this drain gets backed up or frozen, your heat will shut down and could cause expensive repairs (see our post Fall Maintenance Secrets Condensate Drainage).
5. Time to switch
If you used a dehumidifier during the summer months, turn it off. If you have a humidifier, turn it on. If you don't have one, get one (see our posts Why Worry about Humidity in the Winter? and Whole-house Humidifiers).
6. Get a fall maintenance check-up by an HVAC professional
Annual service is cheap compared to the cost of a breakdown. Both Money Magazine and Angie's List will tell you that getting regular HVAC maintenance tune-ups is one of the best ways to save money. Plus, it could detect a potential health hazard, such as a carbon monoxide leak (see our posts Deadly Carbon Monoxide from Cracked Heat Exchangers and Your Furnace Can Kill You!).
Doing just these 6 things in the fall will increase your HVAC's performance and efficiency, and help to prevent costly repairs.
For more tips on keeping your HVAC running smoothly, check out our website, podcasts, YouTube Channel, and download our Fall Maintenance eBook now. Here's to a fun and healthy fall!