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AC and Heating Tip from AC Express

Ensuring Your Home Is Winter-Ready

Ensuring Your Home Is Winter-Ready

We’re less than 30 days away from the official start of winter now and that means it’s high time to double check your winter preparation checklist. And if you don’t have a winter prep checklist we can help. We may not have the most brutal winters in Austin but heating in Austin is still in high demand and that means your home’s heater is going to need all the help it can get to get through the winter season with minimal hiccups.

Not to mention all the other things you can do to ensure your home is maximized for winter comfort and protection from harsh winter weather. This may seem like it is of little concern when we’re sitting pretty with 70 degree weather in the afternoon but as we all know, weather in Texas is unpredictable. For all we know, this mild fall may be the calm before the storm so to speak. So, since fortune favors the prepared, don’t hesitate, read on to learn some basic strategies and tips for ensuring your home is as winter-ready and prepared for all the heating in Austin you could possibly need.

Basic Furnace Maintenance

Whether you’ve been using your furnace regularly this fall yet or not, now is a great time to get some of the more basic and simple maintenance tasks out of the way. The one that undoubtedly tops this list is, you guessed it, changing your air filter. Before you make that switch from “cool” to “heat,” go swap out your filter from dusty to clean. A dirty filter means your furnace has to try harder to keep you warm which can negatively affect your comfort and mean higher bills.

It also means breakdowns become more likely, expensive repairs more frequent, and your furnace’s lifespan lowered. You don’t want any of those things. So take a moment and check your air filter. If it’s dirty, find the same size at your local hardware store and replace it. Do this every few months or so and it will be smooth sailing this winter season.

The next thing on the list to check is your vents and registers. As you’ve relocated furniture or brought more into the house, ensure you haven’t blocked any of your heating vents. Furniture, bedding, toys and the like can obstruct air intake and make the HVAC unit work harder. This could in turn raise your utility bill, and no one wants that. You’d be surprised how many heating and cooling issues come down to blocked or clogged vents. It isn’t uncommon for vents to become clogged by dirt and debris, which is an easy solution to fix in a matter of minutes by removing the vents, wiping them down, and cleaning out the debris.

Another thing you can do to test if your system is working during this fall is using your thermostat to give your heating a “test run” before the cold temperatures hit. A few quick tests to see if your system can rise to the temperature you set are a great idea to do as a preliminary evaluation of your HVAC system. If it takes too long, or cannot seem to reach the temperature you set, you should call a professional to address the inefficiencies before your system is needed on a daily basis.

Check For Drafts

Drafts are one of the archenemies of a comfortable winter. Those terrible gusts of chilled outdoor air that seep into the home despite all the barriers between the inside and out can cause huge spikes in your energy bills due to how much harder your furnace will have to work to counteract them. And even with your furnace working overtime, you’re not going to be as comfortable and the heating in Austin isn’t going to be as even throughout a home with a draft problem.

The most common place for drafts to occur is the gaps between doors and door frames, and windows and window frames. Go around all the windows and doors and add new weatherstripping. If you see cracks in the window sealant, replace it with new sealant. An $11 piece of weather stripping applied to a gap in a door or window can end up saving you a lot of money over the course of a winter. Inspect the caulk on the exterior sides of your windows as well, removing any pieces that are flaking off and applying fresh caulk.

Check on your attic too and inspect your insulation levels. You may need to replace insulation in the home as it does start to settle and compact over the years. And if you have a garage door attached, don’t forget to check that area for any drafts as well.

As a bonus, once you’ve added weatherstripping to drafty windows, make sure they’re locked as well. During the fall, homeowners in Austin keep their windows open for that crisp breeze, and chances are there are some windows still unlocked in your home. An unlocked window is not sealed completely and will allow cold air into your home. Also, it is wise to take off your window screens and store them inside. The cold winter is extremely harsh to them and taking them down will prevent damage.

Consider Your Thermostat

Your thermostat is going to be an important tool throughout the cold season in Austin. Learning how to use it effectively can be the difference between reasonable energy use and exorbitant bills. For example, make sure when changing the thermostat over from “cool” to “heat” you don’t switch it to “on” instead of “auto.” This would keep the fan running constantly, regardless of whether heat is being produced or not. As you might imagine, this isn’t good for your energy efficiency.

Also, as mentioned in the first tip, test your thermostat out before leaving it running. We often see homeowners deal with expensive costs because of a faulty thermostat. On a cool fall day, turn the heat on to make sure the HVAC system is working properly. Set the thermostat to “heat,”and set the temperature a few degrees above what the current reading is. Then make sure it turns on, the vents are putting out heat, and it switches off once it reaches the desired temperature.

Also consider a thermostat upgrade. Now is a great time. Modern thermostats can do so much more that you might not even be aware of! Some are even programmable from your phone, making it easy to turn your furnace on or reduce the heat when you are away from your home. This is an easy way to save money. For example, if you’re an early riser working nine to five, there’s no sense having the heating on at two in the afternoon. Similarly, if you work from home and enjoy sleeping in late, you can avoid turning your heat on until approximately one hour before you get out of bed. Some can even sense when you’re home, away, or sleeping, and adjust the settings accordingly to maximize comfort and minimize energy use. A new smart thermostat makes a great gift for the holidays as well!

Prepare Your AC Unit For Hibernation

Your air conditioner will soon get some much needed rest and lie dormant for the cold season in Austin. But there are steps you can take durning this transition to ensure that your air conditioner, and especially the outdoor unit, are protected and prepared to go unused for the next few months. That way when it gets powered back up come spring, you can rest assured it’s in tip top shape to do so.

First of all, let’s make sure the air conditioner stays off once the fall has finally passed. Find the air conditioning circuit near your unit. Usually, it has a plastic or metal lid that covers the electrical circuit. Open the lid and flip the switch to turn the unit off. This prevents the unit from turning on during an unusually warm winter day, keeping water out of the unit that could potentially freeze.

Then comes some quick cleaning. Wash the air conditioning unit with a hose to remove bird droppings, dead bugs, dirt and dust. Remove leaves, small branches and grass clippings from the unit. If you want to be extra sure nothing gets into the unit and gunks it up over its dormant period, you could consider investing in a cover. If you do, choose a cover that is waterproof. Some manufacturers make covers that are specifically designed for air conditioners, but you can use any plastic or vinyl covering that fits over the unit.

Winter Prep and Air Conditioning Repair in Austin

Nothing beats good preparation when it comes to ensuring a stress free winter. It doesn’t take much to make your home an energy efficiency, comfy refuge from the coming winter cold fronts. A little furnace maintenance, a little air sealing and a few good cleaning and thermostat habits will do the trick.

And if in this brief reprise from cold before the full brunt of the winter you find yourself in need of some last minute AC repair in Austin, consider AC Express. AC Express is an Austin AC repair and heating repair company whose service area includes everywhere from Kyle and Buda to Georgetown and Round Rock. Call today and get top notch same day air conditioning service in Austin!

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