Charlotte, NC, has a truly enviable cold season. While outside temperatures do get low, they rarely remain below freezing for any length of time. However, this doesn’t mean that your HVAC system isn’t at risk of experiencing some seasonal stress. Although moderate, the winter weather can still be cruel. To keep your heating and cooling equipment duly protected and performing like it should, the following are 10 effective strategies to employ:
1. Schedule a Heater Tune-Up
From December to February, average daytime highs in Charlotte are usually in the 50-degree Fahrenheit range. At night, outside temperatures tend to hang steady at or just above freezing. All things considered, you’ll definitely need your furnace for day-to-day comfort. In the event of a sudden temperature drop, having a functional heating system will also prevent your pipes from freezing.
Test and calibrate all thermostats
Clean air registers, vents, and grilles
Perform voltage and current checks
Lubricate moving parts
Clean furnace burners and heat exchangers
We also swap out worn bearings, check for and tighten loose electrical connections, adjust the tension on fan belts, and inspect furnace venting systems.
2. Raise Your Thermostat Setting
One easy way to limit the amount of work that your furnace has to do is by raising your thermostat setting by just one to three degrees. This adjustment won’t greatly affect your indoor comfort, but it will have a remarkable impact on your home energy bills.
According to the United States Department of Energy (DOE), over an eight-hour stretch, you may be able to shave as much as 1% off your energy bill for each degree of thermostat adjustment. A slightly higher thermostat setting will mean fewer and shorter heating cycles for your heater. This translates to less cumulative wear and fewer stress-related repair issues.
3. Check for Closed HVAC Air Vents
Some people prefer the crisp temperatures of winter and hate the way heating systems dry out both building interiors and their nasal passages. As such, there could be a few residents who have closed some of the HVAC air vents in their homes. Unfortunately, extended vent closures can cause a substantial buildup of air pressure within HVAC ducting. As airflow through HVAC systems declines, furnaces can overheat and stop working.
If certain rooms throughout your home tend to be hotter than others, consider scheduling air-balancing services. Air balancing is a series of adjustments to HVAC air duct dampers and vents that help furnaces establish uniform temperatures throughout their entire service areas.
If building residents have dramatically different temperature preferences, having your HVAC system zoned for customized air delivery is the better choice. Zoning incorporates a central control system, bypass ducts, and internal duct dampers so that people can independently control the temperatures in their own rooms. With zoning, vent closures don’t cause undue system stress. Zoning also eliminates the need to heat spaces that no one is using.
4. Stock up on HVAC Air Filters and Establish the Right Filter Change Schedule
Neglected filter changes are easily the most common cause of heater problems throughout the cold season. You should always inspect your HVAC air filters once each month, replacing them every 30 to 90 days.
To ensure that you always have fresh filters on hand, stock up on these components before the cold weather arrives. If you have indoor pets, residents with chronic respiratory issues, or other ongoing indoor air quality (IAQ) concerns, you’ll always want to have clean air filters on hand.
5. Choose the Right Thermostat Location
In winter, many homeowners fire up a number of heat-generating appliances. Whether you have a new fireplace insert or a larger and higher-performing oven, the placement of these recent additions could impact the functionality of your thermostat.
If your home has a single thermostat that controls the delivery of heated air for the entire building, it should be in a neutral, central location. The residual heat from ovens, fireplaces, and clothes dryers could impact its ability to provide accurate temperature readings. By scheduling a pre-season furnace tune-up, you can have your thermostat strategically repositioned before cooler temperatures arrive.
6. Compare Your Energy Bills
Among the many telltale signs of heater problems are significant and inexplicable increases in your home energy bills. Even if your furnace, heat pump, or boiler isn’t exhibiting any glaring symptoms, you can use your past energy bills to spot problems and schedule repairs before things spiral out of control. Each month, when your new energy bill comes in, take a look at your energy bill from the same month last year to check for changes.
7. Maintain Your HVAC Air Vents
Even a single delayed filter change can leave you with dirty air registers, vents, and grilles throughout your home. When thick accumulations of particulates become too heavy in these areas, they can inhibit airflow throughout the entire HVAC system. This could lead to a substantial increase in indoor humidity, poor heater performance, overheating, and a lower IAQ. You can use a damp cloth to wipe these features down. You can also unscrew HVAC vent covers and carefully vacuum behind them.
8. Protect Your Outside AC or Heat Pump Condenser Unit
Frosty temperatures and heavy precipitation can wreak havoc on your air conditioning system’s outside condenser. While covering this unit and keeping it covered throughout the entire winter season isn’t always necessary, you should take steps to protect it.
Start by removing leaves, twigs, and other organic debris from around its perimeter. Then, limb any trees that tower over the condenser unit to minimize the likelihood of damage caused by falling branches. When the risk of dropping icicles or heavy snow loads is severe, it can even be beneficial to install a simple, open-walled shelter.
9. Establish a Solid Pest Management Plan
During the winter months, mice, rats, raccoons, and other pests are looking for a warm place to hide. You can keep them from taking up residence in your HVAC system by eliminating all points of access and having them sealed off.
10. Have Your HVAC Air Ducts Sealed and Insulated
Ducted HVAC systems can lose as much as 40% of their efficiency through ductwork. To minimize these efficiency losses, have your HVAC air ducts professionally insulated and sealed. It’s also important to have the integrity of your air ducts regularly inspected and to replace these features approximately every 15 years.
Acosta Heating, Cooling & Electrical has been helping residents of Charlotte, NC, maintain warm, comfortable homes all winter long since 1973. We offer heating and cooling system installation, repair, and maintenance services. You can also turn to us for EV charger installation, electrical panel repairs, surge protection, and backup generators. To find out more or to schedule an appointment, contact Acosta Heating, Cooling & Electrical today.