Getting your furnace ready for the cold
Your furnace has been dormant for the last 6+ months, so it’s a good idea to prepare it for the impending cold weather. You can do just a few of these or take them all on, and your furnace will thank you when the temperature really drops (your furnace won’t actually thank you, but it’s still a good idea).
- Replace the furnace filter. A clean improves airflow and efficiency, contributing to lower energy bills every month. ENERGY STAR recommends checking your filter every month, especially during January, February and March in Ontario. If it looks dirty, change it. If not, keep a record and change the filter every 3 months regardless of how it looks. If you have a media filter, change it twice per year or once per year depending on the household traffic.
- Book a tune up. A professional HVAC technician should inspect and service your heating equipment before you begin to use it for the winter months. Regardless of the type of heating appliance, you should get it serviced every year. During a regular maintenance inspection, the technician will check for leaks, wearing parts and ensure everything is where it should be. It’s a physical for your heating equipment.
- Buy an energy-efficient furnace or heat pump. When shopping for a high-efficiency furnace, choose one with an AFUE of 90% or higher. A heat pump’s heating efficiency is expressed as the heating seasonal performance factor, or HSPF. As with AFUE, the higher the HSPF, the more efficiently the heat pump will operate. Consider buying a heat pump with an HSPF of 8 or higher. Both of these are irregular tasks, clearly, but if your heating equipment is more than 15 years old, it’s worth a look.
- Verify your thermostat is working properly. A misconfigured thermostat can negatively impact the efficiency of your heating system. To check it, begin by switching it from cooling to heating. Then, turn the thermostat on and monitor how well it responds. Consider upgrading to a programmable thermostat designed to adjust the temperature according to a series of programmed settings that take effect at different times of the day. This allows you to set back the temperature at night or during those times of the day when no one is home, conserving energy and saving you money. Remember to replace the batteries in your thermostat.
- Make sure your vents are open and unobstructed. Your heating system depends on vents to move hot air from the furnace or heat pump into a room. So, it’s important to keep these vents clean, open and free of any obstructions, like furniture or drapes.
- Inspect the outside exhaust flue. Take this important step to ensure the flue is free of obstructions, like animal nests, leaves and branches. Just because they weren’t there last year doesn’t mean they didn’t move in this summer.
There is no time like the present to take care of some or all of these furnace chores. You’ll be glad you did when the real cold hits.