While you wouldn’t know it by all the 90° days scheduled in our current forecast, fall officially begins this Thursday, Sept. 22nd. In theory, that means cooler weather, crisp fall mornings and evenings, cuddling under soft throws, and enjoying a nice mug of warm apple cider.
Fall isn’t all about cooler weather and warmer clothes, though. The beginning of fall is also a fantastic time to do some maintenance work on your HVAC system prior to starting your heater up for the first time this year. If you have let basic maintenance go, this is your chance to make sure everything is in tip-top shape before asking your heating system to take on another year of keeping your home comfy and cozy.
So what should you do to make sure everything is in good working order?
Change Those Filters
The very first thing you should do is check your HVAC filter for buildup of dust and dirt. We recently added the picture above to our Facebook page – see all of that buildup? It’s hard to miss! When your filters are dirty, all of that dust and dirt keeps your filter from working the way that it should, meaning that more particulate matter that would otherwise be caught in the filter is recirculating through your home. That can equal breathing problems (and in this case, a potential fire hazard).
The other problem with clogged filters? Reduced airflow, which causes your heating system to operate inefficiently and that can increase heating costs over the fall/winter season. We suggest checking your HVAC filter at least once a month – if you have forgotten it this summer, it’s probably time for a change.
Clean Your Vents
Much like your HVAC filter, dirty and clogged vents can have repercussions for your home’s air quality and your heating system’s efficiency. Dirty vents mean dust, dirt, allergens, and mold spores could all be circulating in abundance throughout your home, which mean poor air quality and potential allergic reactions for family members. When vents are cleaned on a regular basis, it helps to prevent dirt and dust buildup deeper in the ducts of a forced-air system.
Clogged vents also reduce the airflow throughout your HVAC system, which reduces efficiency, just like the dirty filters mentioned in the section above. If you need a refresher on how to clean your vents, our post will walk you through it step-by-step.
Schedule a Maintenance Call
We promise we are not promoting this just to get extra business! Bi-annual maintenance calls are one of the easiest ways to stop small problems from becoming large, expensive ones. It’s also just a smart idea to let a professional look at your HVAC system before switching from cooling full-time to round-the-clock heating, just to make absolutely certain that everything is working as it should. A technician will do a thorough inspection of your HVAC system, replace anything that needs replacing (such as hoses or connections that tend to fail over time), and point out any major service that might need to be done to keep things running smoothly.
Think regular maintenance is just a scam? Then check out this post on an HVAC system we have kept running for over 40 years! Good maintenance definitely helps!
Check For Drafts
When it comes to home heating inefficiency, drafts are a major cause of keeping a home cool when it should be warm. Usually, windows and doors are the biggest culprits when it comes to air sneaking in through small cracks. Make sure your windows are all in good shape prior to the weather getting cold – check your seals and frames for signs of wear and damage. The same goes for doors – if you see any signs of potential problems, fix them now before you are facing a high electric bill due to draft issues.
Know you have a draft, but aren’t sure exactly where it is? Here’s a trick: turn off your HVAC system, light a stick of incense, and move it slowly around the suspected area. Once you see the smoke move, you will have found the problem spot.
Maintain Your Fireplace
Fall and winter weather means cozying up to your fireplace. Before you build a fire for the first time this season, though, be sure to have your fireplace cleaned by a professional chimney sweep. After months of neglect it is very possible that there may be debris blocking your chimney, not to mention creosote buildup from last year’s fireplace season. Both blockages and creosote are major fire hazards – let a professional take a look and give you the all clear before you make a big, cozy fire this season.
Update Your Ceiling Fans
An easy change that can mean increased efficiency for home heating – make sure your ceiling fans are turning in the right direction for fall/winter. In summer, ceiling fans should spin in the counterclockwise direction, in order to pull cool air up and help with circulation. In fall and winter, the blades should spin clockwise, helping to pull warm air down and into your room.
Changing the direction of your ceiling fan is very easy. There should be a small switch on the motor unit that allows you to change the direction of the blades. If your fan doesn’t have this switch, check your owner’s manual on how to alter the direction.
Change Those Batteries
While this doesn’t have anything to do with HVAC systems or heating efficiency, it’s still an important fall/winter safety tip – change the batteries in your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors! This is one of the easiest things you can do to protect the safety of your family and your home. The risk of carbon monoxide issues tends to rise in the winter months, and this silent killer is no joke. So take the time to check on your detectors and make sure they are working properly.