Caring for your HVAC system before temperatures plummet is the best way to avoid a home heating emergency. Timely maintenance will also extend the lifespan of your heating and cooling equipment and optimize its efficiency. To help you get up to date on all the essentials, the following is a comprehensive HVAC maintenance checklist for fall.

Check and Change Your HVAC Air Filter and Stock up on Replacements

Throughout the year, you should inspect your HVAC air filters monthly. Before winter arrives, make sure that your furnace filter is clean, correctly installed, and properly rated for your indoor air quality (IAQ) needs and your furnace specs. Autumn is also a great time to stock up on these components if you haven’t done so already. During times of severe weather, you might not be able to visit the store for extra filters. Having a replacement filter on hand for each intake will limit the risk of both short-cycling and overheating on days when your furnace is running continuously. It will also ensure that you aren’t left without a clean filter if store shelves ever go empty.

When stocking up, explore your options for upgraded HVAC air filters. All air filters sold throughout North America come with a maximum efficiency reporting value or MERV rating. The higher that these ratings are, the more allergens and contaminants filters can retain. The standard filters that come with HVAC equipment typically have MERV ratings between six and eight. You can look for options with ratings of 10 or higher. With your windows and doors sealed shut against the cold winter weather, being able to extract more dirt, dander, pet hair, and other debris from your indoor air could help everyone breathe a little easier. However, always speak with your HVAC professional about the level of filter that your furnace can handle. It takes more power to pull air through a filter with a smaller mesh, especially when it is clogged with dust. This can cause premature wear on a furnace or heat pump that is not rated for this level of filtration.

Inspect Your Outdoor Condenser Unit and Winterize It as Needed

Although you won’t need your air conditioner until mid to late spring, you should still invest a little time into maintaining it. Start by visiting its outdoor condenser unit to find and remove overgrown weeds, flowers, grass, and shrubs that have encroached upon its cover. Even when it isn’t in use, your AC condenser should have no less than two feet of clearance on all sides.

Look for damaged areas on the condenser cover. Even small-sized openings create openings for mice and other pests to seek shelter from the cold. You can close these openings yourself or pass the work on to a professional.

It’s also important to make sure that any trees that overhang or abut this unit are diligently maintained. Having weak or dying branches cut before they break off during a storm will protect your condenser from forceful, impact events. Although using poorly ventilated and tight-fitting condenser covers all winter long is ill-advised, it might be a good idea to install a simple, free-standing shelter. A slight overhang will keep falling icicles, over-spill from your gutters, and loose roof tiles from striking this costly component.

Inspect Your Exposed HVAC Air Ducts for Leaks

Your HVAC system can only be as efficient as your HVAC air ducts. If your air ducts have loose connections, cracks, or other air leaks, you’ll probably pay more in utility costs for heating. If the holes in your ductwork are large, it may become difficult to achieve a comfortable indoor temperature. Damaged ductwork places a tremendous amount of stress on furnaces and forces them to run longer to maintain indoor temperatures.

In your garage and basement, look for sections of damaged ducting where HVAC air ducts are exposed and vulnerable. Have any crushed, sagging, or otherwise damaged ducts repaired or replaced right away. Also, if your ductwork is running through an area that is not heated or insulated, be sure that these ducts are insulated to a level appropriate to your region. In addition to protecting your heating equipment and lowering your home energy bill, these efforts will also improve your IAQ.

HVAC air ducts require professional inspections once each year. You should have your air ducts professionally cleaned every three to five years. It’s also a good idea to have your ducts inspected with a camera once every few years if they’ve already offered more than a decade of service.

Clean the Air Registers, Vents, and Grilles Throughout Your Home

If you waited a little too long between filter changes, you may have accumulated a layer of dust on your HVAC air registers, vents, and grilles. When HVAC air filters develop debris, bits of this collected material can get blown off and make their way through ducting.

You can wipe your air registers, vents, and grilles clean with a soft, damp cloth. If there are visible accumulations of dust behind them, remove all vent covers and use your vacuum cleaner’s hose attachment to clear them out.

This is also the perfect time to make sure that no one in your home has closed the HVAC air vents in their immediate areas. Although this is a popular tactic for redirecting unwanted heated or cooled air, it causes a tremendous build-up of static pressure within HVAC ducting. The only way to safely customize air delivery with a central heating and cooling system is by having your home zoned by HVAC professionals.

Reprogram Your Thermostat to Reflect Your Changing Schedule and Needs

If you have a smart or programmable thermostat installed, now is the time to adjust its settings to reflect your changing needs for the winter months. You should also make sure that your thermostat isn’t installed too close to any heat-generating appliance. For instance, if this device is just a short distance away from your oven, you might have a hard time getting your heater to turn on every time you cook. Whether you’ve added new heat-generating appliances to your home or have moved your appliances and furnishing around, we can help you determine the best neutral location for this device. We can also calibrate your thermostat and help you establish the right settings.

Replace the Batteries in Your Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Whenever homes have fuel-burning appliances, they need carbon monoxide detectors. Carbon monoxide (CO) is a dangerous and potentially deadly gas that’s both odorless and colorless. It’s produced when furnaces, boilers, water heaters, gas stoves, and gas dryers combust fuel incompletely. Although carbon monoxide is routed out of your home by each fuel-burning appliance’s exhaust system, carbon monoxide detectors are still essential for mitigating exposure caused by exhaust leaks, back-drafting, and equipment malfunction.

Standard carbon monoxide detectors should have their batteries changed once annually. The best time to do this is in the fall and just before you turn your heater on for the cold season.

Schedule a Tune-up for Your Heater

Getting your HVAC system ready for the cold season is hardly a one-person job. To round your fall HVAC maintenance checklist off, always schedule a tune-up service for your heater. Routine maintenance in autumn gives HVAC technicians the chance to identify and correct developing issues. During this service, we replace missing and worn components, verify the integrity of all electrical connections, and carefully inspect venting systems among other things. We structure our HVAC maintenance services to comply with the terms of HVAC manufacturer warranties and all other relevant home and HVAC coverage.

Residents of New Britain, PA can count on us for superior heating and cooling services. We offer heater and air conditioner installation, maintenance, and repairs. We also provide ductless heating and cooling, HVAC zoning, and indoor air quality solutions. If you need help with your fall HVAC maintenance, get in touch with TCS Heating and Air Conditioning today.

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