The seasonal change from summer to fall is an ideal time to take steps to prepare your home’s heating system for the long winter. Your AC’s turn at the plate is nearly over, and it won’t be long before your heating system steps up to bat. Take the following fall maintenance procedures in order to ensure a safe, efficient and effective heating system this winter.
The first step is the easiest. Check the air filter in your furnace or heat pump, and if it looks clogged with dust and debris, remove it and install a fresh one. Don’t make the mistake of purchasing the cheapest available flat-panel air filter. You get what you pay for, and the $2 or $3 you spend on a cheap filter will get you minimal filtration. A good, mid-efficiency filter works fine for most forced-air systems. You shouldn’t have to spend more than $10 or $15, and it’s worth it when you consider the benefits – fewer contaminants blowing around in household air, less dirt and grit getting on sensitive HVAC components, and a smoother-running system all round.
Clean the coils on your air conditioner, both in the indoor evaporator and the outdoor condenser. Dirty coils hamper the essential heat-exchange process that’s at the heart of any air-conditioning system. Plus mold and bacteria can grow in the inviting dark and damp around AC coils, which isn’t great for indoor air quality. Allowing the coils to remain dirty for lengthy periods can damage them and lead to refrigerant leaks. (For details on how to clean the coils, go to an authoritative online source. If you have any doubts about your ability to complete this job, leave it to a trusted professional.)
You’ll want to clean the condensate pan for the air conditioner, as well, in order to prevent standing water that makes an inviting home for mold and mildew. A common problem arises when the condensate drain that removes moisture from cooling coils gets clogged and backs up, and potentially damages floors, carpets, walls and personal belongings.
Get Professional Maintenance for a Complete Tune-Up
While any homeowner handyman (or woman) can perform most or all of these chores, your best bet is to hire an HVAC pro to complete preseason preventative maintenance. During the autumn tune-up on your furnace or heat pump, the HVAC tech will check off numerous other maintenance steps that are essential to the safe and efficient operation of your heating system.
If you neglect or forget to schedule preseason maintenance on your furnace or heat pump this fall, don’t despair. It’s the right choice even when it’s done later, after the cold weather has set in.