The temperatures are steadily dropping with each passing day, and it won’t be long until the freezing winter weather is upon us. As such, now is a good time to start getting your HVAC system ready for winter. Preparing your HVAC system for winter is important for keeping your heating costs in check and also for preventing damage and lessening the risk of your furnace breaking down.
Shut Off the Power to Your AC and Clean Out Leaves and Debris
If your home has central air conditioning and a furnace, it’s a good idea to shut the power off to your AC unit. This way you can ensure that the unit won’t turn on if someone accidentally switches the thermostat to cooling mode. If your AC were to suddenly turn on during the winter, it would quickly freeze up and could suffer severe damage if it continued to run when frozen. In fact, ACs can freeze any time the outdoor air temperature is below 60 degrees, which is why you usually don’t want to run the unit in the fall either.
Many homes have a shut-off switch on the exterior wall just next to the AC unit that controls the power to the unit only. If you don’t have a switch, the only way to shut the power off to your AC would be to flip the circuit breaker off. However, this would prevent your heating system from working since the furnace and blower are on the same circuit as the AC unit. It’s not a big issue if you can’t shut off the power, but you will want to be careful to make sure you don’t accidentally turn the unit on over the winter.
It’s also a good idea to look inside the AC unit and check for leaves and debris. If there are lots of leaves inside the unit, you should have a technician clean it out. Unfortunately, this really isn’t something you’ll be able to do yourself as the entire fan assembly has to be removed to access the inside of the unit. The reason you want to have all of the leaves cleaned out is to help prevent rust and corrosion. All of the sensitive components in an AC unit are sealed so that everything is waterproof. The problem is that leaves and organic matter can absorb and hold onto lots of water, which can lead to moisture build-up and increase the chances of rust and corrosion forming.
Replace or Wash the Air Filter
Whenever you turn off your air conditioning in the early fall, you should always replace the HVAC air filter. The same filter works for both your AC and heating, and replacing the filter will help ensure that your heating system is ready to go whenever it gets cold enough that you need to turn it on.
An overly dirty or clogged filter will greatly restrict how much air the blower can pull in. If you tried turning your heating on and the filter was clogged, your furnace will produce very little heat since there won’t be much cool air flowing through it. If there isn’t sufficient cool air coming into the furnace, it can quickly start to overheat. Restricted airflow also makes the blower work much harder, which can lead to its motor overheating as well.
Overheating is a serious issue since all of the heat can damage the wiring and electrical components. If the heat exchanger in the furnace gets too hot, there is also a risk that it could crack. A cracked heat exchanger is the worst thing that can happen to a furnace, as a heat exchanger is extremely difficult and expensive to replace. If the heat exchanger cracks, it can also allow carbon monoxide to escape and leak out into your ductwork and circulate around your home.
These issues are also why it’s important that you regularly check the condition of the air filter throughout the winter. You’re always best to replace or wash the air filter at least once every two to three months. If you have indoor pets, you may want to replace the filter more often since all of the hair they shed can cause it to clog more quickly.
Schedule a Heating Inspection and Tune-Up Service
The most important thing you can do to prepare your HVAC system for winter is to schedule a professional heating inspection and tune-up or maintenance service. If possible, this is always something you should have done in the fall before you need to turn your heating on. If you try to run your furnace and heating system without having it maintained, there is a higher risk of it breaking down or not working correctly. Having the entire system inspected is also important for ensuring that it is safe to operate.
When inspecting your furnace, the technician will check the condition of the heat exchanger and ensure it isn’t cracked, damaged or clogged. They will also check for loose electrical connections and damaged or frayed wires, which is important for preventing short circuits that could lead to an electrical fire. Another essential task is making sure that the exhaust flue isn’t damaged or clogged and that the furnace is venting properly. This is also important for ensuring that the exhaust fumes and carbon monoxide flow outside and don’t start leaking out inside your home.
During the service, the technician will also fully clean the burner ports, flame sensor and blower. The burner ports will often get clogged with dust and cobwebs over the summer, which can prevent the burners from lighting properly. If the ports are clogged, the burners may not light immediately. This can lead to gas flowing into the combustion chamber and producing a fireball when the burners light, which could damage various components in the furnace. Dirty or clogged burners will also lead to the gas not fully combusting, which will reduce the effectiveness of the furnace as incomplete combustion produces much less heat.
Cleaning and testing the flame sensor is important for ensuring that the furnace stays lit. If the sensor is dirty or worn out, it won’t sense the heat coming off the burners and the furnace will automatically shut down within a few seconds of the burners lighting.
The blower assembly and housing also need to be cleaned to ensure that your heating system always has sufficient airflow. This again helps to prevent the furnace from potentially overheating. It is also important for preventing your heating bills from being higher than they should. If the blower can’t move sufficient air through the system, much less heat will be produced and your furnace will have to run much longer. Not only will this lead to increased energy usage, but it also increases wear and tear and can shorten the lifespan of your furnace.
Polar Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning is the top choice for HVAC maintenance in Newburgh. Our certified technicians service and repair all types of HVAC units, including furnaces, heat pumps, air conditioners and mini-splits, and we also offer professional heating and cooling installation and plumbing services. For more information or to schedule a tune-up service, give us a call today.