As fall and winter approaches, homeowners should make the appropriate preparations. That may mean bringing in patio furniture and/or winterizing their swimming pool. Or inspecting their gutters to make sure they drain properly. Or even checking their supplies of fuel and supplies for snow blowers, generators, and fireplaces.
But perhaps the most important task on your to-do list is to ensure that your home’s heating system is ready for the season. Otherwise, you may be paying extra money to run a wasteful heater or even incur costly repairs to fix preventable problems. So here are five ways that your household can save money by doing basic maintenance on your heater.
- Keep filters clean. You might be surprised to learn how many different types of filters your heating system utilizes. There’s an air filter on your fan coil or furnace, which should be checked every three to four weeks. If it’s dirty, either clean or replace it depending on what type of filter you use. Failing to do so will put extra strain on your heat pump or furnace and make your heater run less efficiently (or even break down). In addition, your ventilator has both air and core filters that should be cleaned every three months.
- Keep coils clean. Then there are the coils on your heating units, which take electric current and turn it into heating energy to warm your home. But these coils won’t perform capably if they are dirty. So use a vacuum cleaner equipped with a soft brush attachment to clean the dust and dirt out of both your indoor and outdoor coils. Don’t forget to clean the undersides of the coils as well.
- Inspect your furnace. Before temperatures drop, you should check out your furnace to make sure it is operating properly. Look for signs of rust, soot, or dirt in the combustion area and clean this part of the furnace if necessary. Then test your furnace’s blower; if it is blowing nonstop, then check the unit’s switch or your thermostat to see if they are functioning correctly. If the blower doesn’t run at all, examine all of the air vents to make sure they aren’t blocked and ensure that the thermostat is set the way it should be. If these simple fixes don’t solve the problem, call a repair professional.
- Examine your outdoor unit. Pull the base pan out from under the unit periodically to make sure it is not collecting debris (if your unit is kept away from shrubs, leaves, grass clippings, and other debris, this will be less of an issue). If you notice water or ice collecting under your unit, take steps to drain it away from the base. Also, your unit must remain level to ensure proper drainage, so check to see that there is no settling or buckling in the supporting concrete base. Finally, it is wise to wash the outside of the unit if you live near an ocean in order to remove sea salt and similar corrosive elements.
- Clean your humidifier. This should be done at the start of the cold season in your area. The first step is to replace the evaporator pad on your humidifier annually. Then clean each one of the unit’s external and internal components according to the instructions in your owner’s manual. If you live in an area with hard or mineral-laden water, this process should be completed a bit more frequently.
Putting in a little effort now can save you a lot of money later. Plus, you reduce the risk of trying to live in a cold house while waiting for a heating repairman to show up!
Chris Martin is a freelance writer who writes about topics ranging from auto insurance to consumer finance to home heating systems.