Prepare Your Home for Fall and Winter

Tree LeavesWe may not be completely out of the woods when it comes to warm weather yet in Austin, but we’re just about getting to that time when have to start thinking about heating in addition to air conditioning. You may have noticed the mornings getting chillier and chillier and that’s because we’re well on our way to the cool weather we’ve all come to expect from mid and late fall. Some of you may already have found it necessary to switch your thermostats over from “cool” to “warm”, especially at night. This transition is an important one and with it comes a number of tasks that ought to be accomplished in order to make the transition as smooth and easy as possible.

Just as you prepare your home for heavy air conditioner usage at the beginning of spring, now is the time to start preparing your home for all the heater usage it’s about to get. If you want this cool season to go as smoothly as possible, with a high functioning heater that doesn’t develop any problems and works as energy efficiently as possible, read on to learn all about how to prepare your home for the fall and the winter cold weather.

Preventative Maintenance

The number one thing you can and should do at this point in the year to ensure that your fall and winter go as smoothly as possible when it comes to heating is get your heater serviced and tuned up. Just like your air conditioner, your heater should ideally be checked up on at least once a year if you want to ensure maximum lifespan and efficiency and lower the possibility of needing to call an Austin heater repair service as much as possible. Preventative maintenance is the industry phrase for checkup visits done not to repair current damage but to prevent future damage and malfunction.

It’s better to catch problems in their early stages before you’re dependent on your heater for the warmth in your home then waiting until those potential problems have progressed while it’s in the dead of winter. The best thing about doing this now rather than waiting until it’s a little cooler is that this isn’t a particularly busy time for heating repair companies.

A preventative maintenance session from a qualified technician is an excellent way to treat a lot of little issues that haven’t yet added up to a big one yet. He or she will clean off the burner heads, unclog any build-up, replace any filters and perform other little clean-up duties that prevent the heater from functioning at its best. This is especially important at the end of summer and the beginning of fall in Austin, when your heater has sat idle for a little while, or more likely many months, and has accumulated dust and other issues. As a result, it will function more efficiently; saving you money on monthly bills, and you’ll run a lower risk of repairs moving forward. In the event a bigger problem is found, you can schedule a repair before the weather gets too cold.

House Maintenance

There are a number of small home maintenance tasks that one can do in preparation of the cold weather that aren’t big enough to warrant their own section but are still plenty worth mentioning and considering. In this section, I’ll list a number of those. They include:

  • Clean out the gutters: It is important to keep your roof’s drainage system flowing smoothly. Remove leaves and other debris from your gutters and drainpipes to help prevent clogging. If left full of debris, clogged gutters and drains can form ice dams that prevent your drainage systems from working properly. This can lead to water seeping into your home, which can lead to all sorts of issues and extra energy costs. Save yourself the hassle of repairing a leak by simply cleaning your gutters and drains now. When you do, run water through the gutters to check for misalignments that could also cause water damage.
  • Look for peeling paint: Check the external walls of your house for any peeling paint. This is a sign that the paint may no longer be protecting the siding of your house and can cause the siding to deteriorate if left unfixed.
  • Check for drafts: Just as air leaks during the summer will hurt you by letting the cold air brought on by the air conditioner out into the summer heat, air leaks during the fall and winter will hurt you by letting the warm air produced by your heater out of your house. That makes this a great time to check for drafts and air leaks in your house. Feel for drafts around the edges of windows and doors. A good tip is to use a lighted candle and if the flame flickers, there’s most likely a draft. Use caulk to seal cracks and openings between stationary house parts like a door frame and weather-stripping to seal components that move like an operable window.
  • Check your roof: Now is the best time to fix any damage to your roof that may let out heat. The changing temperatures and humidity can do a number on your roof so you want to make sure it’s in the best condition possible.
  • Test home safety devices: Now is a great time to make sure the smoke detectors in your house are all functional and charged. Change the batteries in all your smoke detectors and test them to make sure they’re in working order.

Test Your Heater

This may seem like an obvious one, but the best way to check for potential problems during the upcoming cool season is to test your heater out and look out for any signs of issues. Switch your thermostat from “cool” to “warm” and set the temperature for a few degrees above the current temperature in the house. Make sure you hear it turn on and then go around the house making sure that you feel warm air coming out of all the vents in the house.

Look out for signs of trouble as you test your heating. There shouldn’t be any loud vibrating sounds or unusual noises. A screech or whine coming from the heater could be indicative of belts connected to the blower motor that are worn or damaged. If your heater turns on but doesn’t blow warm air as well as it should it could be indicative of a number of things. A heating system that doesn't seem to work as well as it once did could be a sign of various problems. Your heating ducts might be blocked, the burners might be misadjusted, or the blower motor could be on its last legs.

Sometimes you may notice that the air that the heater blows is sufficiently warm but it switches on and off too soon. This erratic behavior could mean that there’s some sort of malfunction with your thermostat’s electronics. It could also mean that the furnace is misadjusted. Both these issues can easily be solved by a visit from a professional heating technician.

Prepare Your Ducts

Now is the best time to make sure your ducts are as well insulated and free of leaks and built up debris as possible. You’re about to switch from air conditioning to heating and with this switch comes an increase in the amount of air that will be flowing through your ducts. It’s been shown in studies that up to 20% of one’s home energy usage can be lost due to improperly insulated ducts. Make sure your ducts are in order by properly sealing and insulating them. Tightly sealed and insulated ducts can potentially reduce your annual energy bills by $120 or more.

In addition to checking yourself by going up to the attic and looking for crushed or pinched ducts or a lack of insulation, you should also call a professional to do a full check on your ductwork and make sure you’re getting the most out of them that you can. In fact, this is a great time to get an energy audit done so that you can make sure your heating system is as energy efficient as possible. Doing that now means saving the most energy possible during the heating season coming up.

Check for Leaks and Cracks in the Furnace

For those of you who heat your home using a furnace, this is an important step that means a lot for your health. Many furnaces produce carbon monoxide in order to heat your home. Carbon monoxide is odorless, invisible and breathing it in can result in death. On most models of gas furnaces, the air that is pumped throughout your home to warm it passes through a heating element that contains hot gasses. However, if there is a crack in this heat exchanger, instead of venting the poisonous gasses outside, the gasses could get into the air that you and your family are breathing. Visually checking for cracks or loose joints in your furnace is always a good idea, but many times these cracks cannot be seen without taking the entire furnace apart. This is not recommended for those without professional training in dealing with heating systems. An easy way to see if your furnace is leaking carbon monoxide is turning on the furnace and holding up a carbon monoxide detector to the furnace. If the alarm goes off, turn off the furnace and call a professional. Or, if you have a contract with a home warranty company, call them and they'll send out a technician to repair or replace your unit.

Home Preparation and Heating Repair in Austin

As you can see, there are plenty of things that one can do to better prepare their home for the upcoming cool season. As we head further into fall and slowly approach winter, people are starting to change their home HVAC system over from focusing on air conditioning to switching on those heaters. Heating in Austin is just as important as air conditioning when it comes to staying comfortable all year long.

Austin heating is an area where AC Express shines. We perform preventative maintenance and repair on any brand or type of heater you can imagine in Lakeway, Round Rock, Cedar Park, Buda, and the whole Austin area. If you ever need heater repair service in Austin, call AC Express!