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How to Prepare a Furnace for Winter
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How to Prepare a Furnace for Winter

San Diego has near-perfect weather year-round, but it does get cold during our winter months. Homeowners who have central heat are fortunate to be able to turn a dial or program their thermostats to avoid chilly nights and mornings. However, even if it is used sparingly, homeowners should perform winter furnace maintenance before they need it; don’t wait for the cold!

By preparing a furnace for winter months, homeowners can rest easy knowing they will be warm on those damp cold nights and nights.

What Can Homeowners’ Do?

The best action that homeowners’ can perform to keep their entire Heating & Air Conditioning system running efficiently is changing and/or cleaning filters on a regular basis. If homeowners have a reusable filter, cleaning is easy and can be performed at home whenever needed. Homeowners should also consider upgrading their filters to a higher efficiency and MERV rated filter for cleaner air. (there is a MERV link)

Many HVAC specialists suggest changing the filters every three to six months in San Diego, and in some cases, even monthly in articles on how to prepare a furnace for winter. Homeowners’ can determine the effectiveness and cleanliness of the filter by simply checking it each month. By monitoring the filter, homeowners will find the perfect amount of time at which to clean and/or change the filter. Homeowners should look for debris, dust, and pet hair (if there are pets in the home) clogging the filter.

Homeowners should also ensure that the furnace is kept clear of any household items. Many furnaces are installed in a closet, garage, or attic. All of these areas tend to collect items for storage, such as paint, boxes, summer items put away for the winter, and other miscellaneous items. It is especially important to keep flammable items away from the furnace; (I am unsure what to add here—we do have some gas safety articles).

For safety, every home should have the appropriate number of carbon monoxide detectors installed, and in the appropriate places (we have a linkable article on gas safety). When operating any appliance utilizing natural gas has the potential to produce carbon monoxide f not installed or vented properly, or if there is a leak. That is one reason heating maintenance is so important.

When the weather begins to cool, homeowners should ensure the filter is clean and ready for use and then test the system. Homeowners should be cautious, however. First, homeowners should make sure they have removed any items from around the furnace. Then, homeowners can turn on the thermostat to the heat setting. Listen for the system to kick in and check for warm air, being vigilant of any odd smells or sounds.

Once the thermostat has been tested and the system is working, a tune-up should be scheduled. If the system does not kick on or a homeowner should schedule a diagnostic visit to inspect what could be wrong. During a tune-up, the system must be in working order. While the HVAC specialist may find its needing repaired, a non-working system cannot be properly maintained and needs a repair specialist.

Furnace Maintenance Visits

Homeowners should keep a regular maintenance for their HVAC systems, both the furnace and the air conditioner. Before operating furnaces for the winter, a licensed HVAC specialist should be scheduled to perform a routine tune-up and maintenance check. This not only maintains the manufacturer’s warranty, but it also protects homeowners from potential safety dangers.

During the tune-up, heating specialists will check the furnace for leaks.

At Bill Howe Heating & Air, every precisions tune-up and safety inspection include:

A full safety inspection for carbon monoxide and potential leaks and/or cracks in the furnace.

Inspection and cleaning of the heat exchanger and burners. The heat exchanger and burners should be vacuumed and brushed on an annual basis. During use in the winter, debris and dust can build up. During this cleaning and inspection, the specialist can also look for potential leaks and cracks that lead to carbon monoxide in the home.

Check fan motor for proper operation. They will also lubricate the motors during a tune-up; just like a vehicle, furnaces have mechanical components that require some TLC each year to keep them operating smoothly.  

Visually inspect the flue pipe and venting to ensure proper ventilation.

Inspect system and safety controls for optimal operation.

Adjust burners, pilot and the thermostat to the correct levels. If homeowners do not yet have a programmable thermostat installed, this is the perfect time to go over options with the HVAC specialist. By installing a programmable thermostat, homeowners can increase efficiency in their home.

Inspect wiring for potential damages. Common wiring problems occur when rodents chew through wiring causing the system to short out or stop working altogether.

Check and adjust the amperage draw for full functionality.

During the maintenance visit, homeowners should also ensure an inspection of the ductwork to make sure there are no bends, leaks, or breaks that could potentially decrease the efficiency and functionality of the furnace. Specialists will also inspect and change or clean the filter.

While homeowners have their HVAC specialist in the home, it is also a great time to talk about how to increase overall efficiency for their HVAC investments. Some upgrades such as insulation and high-efficiency windows are a great addition; homeowners with older systems should also investigate if purchasing a new furnace is the right move.

During the preseason months in San Diego, many HVAC companies offer great specials on furnaces and even air conditioners. Due to the great weather, availability is much better as well.

Energy Savings Agreement

By investing in an annual maintenance program with a preferred furnace specialist, homeowners can be assured they will have the best maintenance services at the right time. Bill Howe Heating & Air has created the ESA for customers who want to properly maintain their HVAC equipment. By signing up for an annual or multi-year plan, customers will receive a discounted rate and reminders when its time to schedule their maintenance. Homeowners can set and forget, knowing Bill Howe experts have them covered.

If homeowners in San Diego are ready for the best furnace care and preparation for winter, call Bill Howe Heating & Air at 1-800 BILL HOWE (245-5469) today. Ask about preseason specials and for more information about how to sign up for their premiere ESA.

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