Now that it’s officially winter, it’s definitely time to be thinking about how you’re going to heat your home this year. Some parts of the country are just now starting to feel the cold, others have been chilly for some time, but everybody should be getting their systems in shape for the coming blasts of arctic air. If you’ve not yet gotten started prepping your central heating system, there’s no time like the present. We’re here to help!
Furnace Season Basics for Every Homeowner
Being a first time homeowner may mean you have very little experience with home repair. That’s ok, there are plenty of ways to improve your heating system’s safety and performance this year as you get more familiar with your home. Here are a few items you may want to put on this weekend’s “to do” list:
Check that your carbon monoxide detector and smoke alarms are in good working order. Furnaces get hot and that makes them a minor risk for fire, especially as they age. Better to take an hour to check all the alarms.
Reverse your ceiling fans. Believe it or not, your ceiling fans can help you save a bundle on home heating this winter. There’s a switch on most ceiling fan motors that allows you to control which way they spin. In the winter, you’ll want them to turn clockwise at low speed. This will pull the hot air away from the ceiling and push it toward the living area, where you actually want it.
Close your crawl space vents. If your house is built on a crawl space, you’ll want to make sure the vents are closed or covered. Those vents are useful to keep humidity from building up during the spring and summer, but in the winter, they just allow cold air to come in under your home, chilling ductwork and making your furnace work harder.
Change your filters. Your furnace performs best when the filter is clean. This is because that filter is literally like a surgical mask for your HVAC system. When too many particles are clogging up the pores, the furnace struggles to bring in a full breath, so instead of heating an optimal amount of air and pushing it out, it’s only heating a percentage, which gets smaller and smaller over time. Ideally, you should change filters when they appear dirty, not when there’s physical material sticking to them. Investing in an electrostatic filter can mean huge savings on replacement filters and gives you a chance to rinse your filter out weekly, so you’ll always have optimal airflow.
Rearrange the furniture. Blocked vents are vents that aren’t living up to their potential. Get the furniture out of the way so you can take advantage of that sweet, sweet hot air coming out of the furnace. It’s really never a good idea to put furniture over a vent, but now is a great time to rearrange the living room so you don’t accidentally start a fire.
Clear the area around the furnace and cold air return. Your furnace isn’t a living thing, but it does need room to breathe. The furnace itself is creating combustion constantly, which requires a lot of room air and generates a fair amount of heat. So, leave at least two feet of space around it in all directions unless you want a poor flame or a ball of fire in your basement. Also make sure the cold air return (the vent that sucks air into the duct system, might be where you put your filter) is completely clear of obstructions. In newer homes, this vent is usually on the ceiling so you don’t need to worry, but older homes could have it on the floor or on the wall.
Upgrade your thermostat. Besides being able to turn the furnace up before getting out of bed on a cold morning, smart thermostats can save a lot of energy and money all year long. Since many Americans have their largest utility bills in the winter, this is a great time to make that investment. Products like Nest’s Learning Thermostats, Honeywell’s Lyric and Ecobee 3 are designed to work with popular home assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, too!
Now for the Bigger Stuff
Depending on the age of your furnace, it’s a really good idea to have a regular inspection to ensure that it’s in prime working order. Things like cracked heat exchangers can be very real health hazards to yourself and your family, which is clearly not what you’re after. An HVAC inspection and routine cleaning is a very minimal expense and can often be reduced further in price with a longer-term service agreement from a reputable service provider. These service agreements not only give you peace of mind knowing that your equipment has been carefully inspected and will continue to be at regular intervals, but helps you build a lasting relationship with a high-quality HVAC expert