So now that winter is nearly upon us, it’s time to tune up your HVAC system! Why now? You don’t want a big winter storm to catch you off guard and possible damage or permanently break your unit components! Nor do you want to spend loads of money on a last-minute HVAC repair. Don’t suffer from a broken heating unit as the icy winds blow through your home.
Timely HVAC preventive maintenance is the best way to ensure trouble-free operation and peak performance year round. Let’s put it this way – you wouldn’t drive your car 20,000 miles without changing the oil. Your HVAC system, likewise, is a complex system that needs fine tuning to continue producing the optimal output level of clean, warm air.
Living in a winter wonderland, you need to take some extra steps to prepare for this holiday season. There’s a lot to do! But don’t feel overwhelmed just yet! For your convenience, we’ve made things simple by organizing this ultimate HVAC winter to-do list:
7 Winter HVAC To-Do Preps
1) Schedule HVAC Inspection Visit
Ensure that your heating equipment is in top shape before winter by hiring the right technician for a quick inspection. As the winter months approach, you should call your provider to performs regular tune-ups and inspections of home and commercial HVAC systems.
You should aim to identify and fix up all the inefficiencies in your HVAC system before they become serious problems. You should check for the following issues:
- Assessing the health of your HVAC system’s heat exchanger using a combustion analyzer
- Evaluating the condition of the draft diverter and flue pipe
- Inspecting the inducer motor AMP draw
- Assessing the blower motor AMD draw
- Cleaning your blower assembly
- Checking the heat rise
- Checking all ductwork for dust clogs and holes
- Assessing the condition of the pilot light and hot surface igniter
- Safety audit including checking gas leaks, CO leaks, and all combustibles
2) Always Monitor the Building’s Relative Humidity (RH)
All modern air conditioners have two fundamental functions: to remove heat and lower room temperature, remove moisture to lower relative humidity.
During early winter, your HVAC system probably doesn’t run as often. This makes sense considering that most people wouldn’t normally prefer air conditioning when it’s 70-degrees outdoors. However, you may still need to run the AC to remove moisture if the relative humidity is uncomfortably high.
You may have noticed that in some places of your home you feel comfortable even when the AC is turned off. Meanwhile, in other rooms, you start feeling sweaty or clammy despite a supposedly comfortable temperature. If you experience the latter too often at home, it’s safe to assume that your HVAC probably has a humidity problem.
To know for sure, monitor the relative humidity using a humidistat (available online or at any home improvement store). A battery-powered humidistat can help you accurately detect the relative humidity (RH) at your home or workplace. If you don’t control the humidity of the building, mildew will grow in the vents or condensation can leak into the electronic wiring of lightings and causes spark hazards. During the winter month, snow will continuously melt and freeze again, creating even more moisture within the building’s ceiling that may seep into the HVAC.
Your HVAC isn’t doing enough to remove moisture in the air when the humidistat detects RH at 65% or higher consistently. In that case, try out the following fixes:
- Reduce the Thermostat Temperature: This is probably not an ideal solution if you run your AC at the 60s or low 70s as dropping the thermostat temperature could further lower the room temperature.
- Variable Speed AC Unit: If your AC is approaching the edge of its lifespan, consider replacing it with a variable speed unit. These newer units are more capable when it comes to regulating humidity than traditional systems. Variable speed AC units make the best choice if you require air conditioning more often during winter, albeit at a lower speed. Because the cycles are longer, a variable speed AC is likely to do a much better job keeping the humidity at an acceptable level.
However, the RH may still shoot up higher than anticipated every now and again, especially so when the outside temperature is too low to keep the AC running smoothly. As a contingency, you might want to…
- Install a Home-Dehumidifier: We recommend using a whole-house-dehumidifier as it will tie into your HVAC system and synchronize its operation with that of your air conditioner. If the humidity becomes uncomfortably high, the dehumidifier will activate automatically and help you get rid of the excess moisture from the air.
3) Replace Your Furnace Filter
Replace your temporary furnace filter or do some cleaning if you are using a permanent filter. This step is a relatively easy and straightforward task that you should be able to do all by yourself without requiring professional help.
You can find your furnace filter near your indoor HVAC equipment – either by a register in the equipment cabinet or along with the ductwork. If you’re still unable to find or access it, contact your local HVAC companies for assistance.
You can purchase most filter from around $5-60, depending on the type of HVAC system you have. The right air filter can prevent allergic reactions from pet dander, dust buildup, and mold.
4) Ensure Optimal Airflow by Cleaning HVAC Units
Blocked airflow is the most common factor in preventing your HVAC from running optimally. Rake around the outdoor equipment and remove anything that can potentially clog the condenser. Remove all the fallen leaves and trim dangling branches of any trees outside that could interfere with the efficiency of the unit. If a winter storm hits, scrubs and other vegetation can freeze over and block airflow to the indoors.
Not just that, we also recommend that you thoroughly clean the condenser as it can add to the lifespan of your equipment in addition to boosting efficiency.
5) Seal All Leaks to Keep the Warm Air Inside!
Do you sometimes unexpectedly feel a cool breeze even when the heater is turned on? This situation usually happens when you have air leaks around your doors and windows. Air leaks compromise the efficiency of your HVAC system and increase your utility bills by allowing hot air to escape outside since your HVAC system has to spend more time getting your home up to the desired temperature.
Thankfully, you can patch this yourself with some insulation, caulk, or weather stripping – just make sure to detect all possible leakages.
6) Don’t Ignore Safety Measures
You should be wary of carbon monoxide buildup as it may be lethal. Certain heating devices can release these dangerous gases that you need to control. You should always make sure to timely change the batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Most digital equipment comes with an automatic reminder.
7) Other factors to Consider
For Indoor Units:
- If possible, limit heat transfer through the windows by up to 50% using double-glazing along with low-e glass. Don’t forget that by increasing the glass area you increase the amount of heat lost in winter and added in summer.
- Don’t place TV, lamps, or any other heat-producing objects underneath a wall-mounted thermostat, since any rising heat from the devices may sometime prompt the AC unit to overcool your house.
- Install awnings over windows exposed to direct sunlight.
- Avoid unnecessarily running exhaust fans in the kitchen and washrooms for too long.
For Outdoor Units:
- Clean the coil and the cabinet components.
- Check fan blades and motors for wear and tear – especially if you have an older unit. Consider applying lubricants for more efficiency.
- Install all wiring and connections, control box, and associated accessories as instructed by the manufacturer. Controls may include capacitors, circuit boards, sump heater, relays, and more.
- Make sure that the compressor and associated tubing are in good condition.
- Check the base pan to ensure that there are no restricted drain openings. Remove all unwarranted obstructions and clunks of dust.
Professional Services for Winter HVAC Jobs
When it comes to HVAC tune-up, there are certain tasks best left to professionals.
Heating systems are essentially a combination of highly sensitive equipment that requires regular maintenance to enhance performance and operational efficiency. Thus, we recommend scheduling a visit by a professional HVAC maintenance crew before winter sets in and other issues arise.
A trusted HVAC maintenance team will take care of all essential cleaning and inspect your HVAC system in and out to detect flaws and scopes for improvement.