September is National Furnace Tune-Up Month, which means that the weather is cooling down and fall season is about to begin. September is the perfect month to begin thinking about your furnace and heating system to make sure you are covered for winter.
If you choose to ignore your furnace until the day you need it, you could risk a system breakdown, expensive repairs, and a delay for service due to peak demand. By scheduling professional maintenance in the fall, you won’t have to wait for service and it will most likely be cheaper due to the decrease in demand.
Without a doubt, annual professional maintenance pays you back and then some throughout the heating or cooling season. A professional technician will check and clean all its parts, check the pilot light and ignition switch, make sure your chimney, flue, and ductwork are clear for operation and much more.
DIY Furnace Tune-Up Checklist Although yearly professional maintenance in the fall is the best way to keep your heating system running smoothly and efficiently, there are many things a homeowner can do to ensure an energy-efficient HVAC system:
Replace or Clean Your Furnace Filter:
Your air filter is designed to keep your air clean by trapping airborne particles; however, if it becomes dirty and clogged, it adds unwanted strain on your HVAC unit and can damage interior parts. Newer HVAC systems have a safety shut off switch that turns the unit off if there is too much-impeded air flow.
In fact, a clogged air filter is the number one cause of furnace malfunction. Besides increasing energy consumption, negatively impacting indoor air quality, and raising utility bills, a dirty air filter can also lead to an overheated air handler.
The good news is that you can prevent all of these things by simply remembering to change or clean your air filter every 30-90 days. A good rule is to check your filter every 30 days and change it no longer than 90 days. Set reminders on your calendar and phone so you never forget this important furnace tune-up task.
Clean Around Your Heating Unit:
Clean the area around your pilot light and get rid of dust on the pilot by blowing on it using a drinking straw. You don’t want to touch your pilot as it can easily break.
Move any papers, furniture, or other materials around your furnace (within 32 inches) to a different area.
Also, check your outdoor heat pump for grass, leaves, or other debris that may have gathered over summer. Make sure there is a minimum 24-inch clearance around the entire unit. Trim back any plants that may have encroached on the unit over summer. You can hose off your exterior unit and get rid of a lot of it, but hire a professional for a full condenser coil and heat pump cleaning.
Inspect Your Air Ducts:
Did you know that 20-30% of your heated air gets lost through leaks in your ductwork (energystar.gov)? Over summer, new leaks may have formed and existing leaks widened. A leaky air duct system means that you are heating unhabituated areas of the home and putting excess strain on your HVAC system, raising the utility bill.
To check you air ducts for leaks, run your heating or air conditioning and hold up a thin piece of toilet paper or incense stick to all the connections in your ductwork. To seal your air duct leaks, use mastic sealant or aluminum foil tape (ironically, duct tape is not a good solution as it will soon begin to peel off).
You may also want to consider checking your ductwork for cleanliness. We recommend professional air duct cleaning every 5-7 years. So, if you don’t remember the last time you’ve had your air ducts cleaned, it’s probably a good time to find out if you need one. To inspect your air ducts, unscrew one of your duct registers and stick a flash camera as far as you can to take a photo. If your air ducts look anything like this, consider professional duct cleaning:
Insulate, Insulate, Insulate:
Heating and cooling costs make up about half of the total energy costs for your home. Proper sealing and insulation can save up 20-30% on your heating and cooling costs, or about 10-15% off your total energy bill!
If you make any serious changes to your home’s insulation levels, however, always have a professional heating and cooling contractor inspect your home for the proper balance between insulation and ventilation. Your home needs to breathe a little too.
Check the following areas for air leaks in and around your home:
· Where masonry meets siding
· Where utility pipe/wires enter
· Window and door frames
Just as you would search for air leaks in your ductwork, use a piece of toilet paper or incense stick and hold it up to areas where you suspect an air leak. Use weatherproof caulk for any gaps less than ¼ inch and expandable foam spray for gaps larger than ¼ inch. Replace old weather-stripping with fresh caulk or new weather-stripping.
Check Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors:
Also, don’t forget to test your smoke and carbon monoxide detector batteries. Simply hold the test button until you hear the beeping or the alarm. If you don’t hear anything, change the batteries. Smoke and CO detectors should be checked every month, batteries replaced every 6-8 months, and full replacements every 5-10 years (check manufacturer guidelines).
Schedule Professional Maintenance:
Although there is much a homeowner can do to keep an HVAC system running efficiently, the most important thing to do is schedule professional maintenance twice a year – once in the fall for your heating system and once in the spring for your cooling system. When it comes to a through inspection and cleaning of your HVAC unit, hire a professional.
Call McCoy’s Heating & Air Conditioning at 731.668.7492 to schedule your fall tune-up! Proudly serving West Tennessee area since 1981. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ for more useful tips and tricks for maintaining a safe and efficient home.