When the leaves turn on their beautiful display of golds, reds, and yellows here in Greencastle, PA, it is time to shift our attention to our HVAC system. The weather’s gentle reminder by way of temperatures in the 50s nudges us to remember the frigid winter air is only a blink away.
Take advantage of the cooler weather to complete your HVAC maintenance. “Winter is coming.” Use fall to prepare yourself for the harsh winter weather in the future forecast, and avoid waking to an icy bedroom and frozen pipes.
Schedule a Professional HVAC Inspection
With the guaranteed increase in your energy bill, mixed with the simple fact your heater has been turned off for quite some time, a professional inspection ensures you have no surprises coming your way. If your HVAC system needs a part or a tune-up, you can take care of that before it escalates to an entire system replacement.
Professionals can run diagnostic tests, check refrigerant levels, inspect for leaks or blockages, check the motor and fan for wear and tear, inspect coils and control boxes, examine the compressor and tubing, add lubrication to necessary parts, check the combustor blower housing, ensure there are no gas leaks, check the drain pan and condensate lines, inspect the ignition system, heat exchanger, and burner assembly, examine the flue system, monitor for CO2 leaks, and ensure all connections are properly assembled without any corrosion.
Technicians are trained and have the proper equipment to inspect your HVAC system. Furthermore, they carry insurance. Should anything go wrong, the cost isn’t falling on you. Finally, they can troubleshoot and identify the root cause of your issue faster than you can. There is less guess and check, so you aren’t buying unnecessary equipment and parts in an attempt to diagnose the problem.
Without a professional inspection, you leave your system to chance. Leckron’s Comfort Systems ensures that from firing up your furnace to turning it off, it operates as you expect, leaving the only thing you have to worry about is who will rake the leaves.
Leckon’s doesn’t want your HVAC tune-up to be the Scrooge to your upcoming holiday season. We offer an $89 tune-up, including performance checks and visual inspections of all your HVAC components. Contact Leckron Comfort Solutions either via electronic form or call us at 717-597-3768 today!
Clean and Replace Air Filters
While there are some things you should leave to the professionals this autumn, cleaning and replacing your air filters is one of the more straightforward areas of HVAC maintenance… and one you don’t need to pay a professional to do! Of course, if you’d rather, that is your prerogative, but it is one bit of maintenance where no special tools are required – just you, maybe a screwdriver, and your new filter.
Why are clean air filters important?
The fact of the matter is when you push equipment to its limit, breakdowns likely follow. Air filters collect dust, allergens, dirt, and debris, clean the air, and send it through ductwork to your rooms.
When the filter is overloaded, your HVAC unit must work harder to do the same job. In other words, now the unit must push air through a clogged and cluttered filter. To do this, not only is the system working harder, but it also requires more energy to do so.
The result? Your unit will need to be replaced sooner, and your energy bills will go up.
How to clean or replace your air filter
Luckily, this is a relatively straightforward process. Most air filters are reasonably easy to replace. We recommend changing your filter at least every three months, if not sooner. If your filter is caked with dirt and debris, plan to change it sooner the next time.
If your filter barely has any dirt on it, you may not even need to change it! Take it outside and tap it to release the dirt. Then, replace the filter. If your filter can be washed, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Of course, make sure your unit is off when you do this so dirt and pollutants are not recirculating through your ducts.
If you need to replace your filter:
- Replace it with a new one of the proper size
- Ensure the filter is placed with the right side up (typically, arrows point in the direction the filter should go)
- Put in the new filter, replace the filter cover, hand-tightening the screws, and then turn the unit back on
How to remember to replace your filter
Changing the furnace filter doesn’t weigh heavily on most people’s minds. The unit is working, so it is out of sight, out of mind. Unfortunately, that is a solid way to end up replacing your unit sooner than expected.
Instead, set up a routine schedule. Many maintenance programs include a replacement air filter with their quarterly visit. You can also set up recurring home delivery of air filters. When the new filter comes in, swap the old one for the new.
Check and Seal Leaky Ducts
Fall is the perfect time to check your ductwork. Spending money to heat your air only to have it escape through leaky ducts doesn’t make sense.
When air leaks through holes or cracks in your ductwork, your rooms stay chilly despite efforts to warm them. This cool air then triggers your heater to kick back on, overworking your system and driving up your energy bill.
Instead of wasting money and sitting in discomfort all winter, take time in the fall to do a quick home inspection of your ducts.
How to inspect ductwork for leaks
Flip on your system and then go to the central unit. Feel where the ducts enter the unit. Do you feel any air blowing on your hand? If you want to intensify the feeling, dampen your hand, making it more sensitive to the sensation of air blowing on it. You can also use incense to see if the smoke is blown from the burning stick.
Then, if your basement and attics have open ductwork, do the same to the exposed ducts. Feel the length of all ducts. Do you feel any leaks?
The more challenging part will be ducts that are sealed in walls and floors. There is only so much you can do on your own. Use a flashlight and camera or your phone to video the inside of the duct. Do you see large amounts of debris, animal waste, or dust? If so – it is time to call the professionals for a cleaning and check for duct leaks.
Methods for sealing and insulating ducts
If you see a simple leak on a flat run of ductwork, clean the area thoroughly, and then use heat-approved tape, such as aluminum foil tape, to seal the leak. Mastic sealant is more effective if the area is larger than ¼ of an inch. It can be used in combination with aluminum tape.
DIY sealing will take you so far, and then you will need to call Leckron’s Comfort Solutions to help with the job and ensure there are no concerns with mold or CO2.
Program Your Thermostat
When the weather changes, your thermostat should change, too. The Pennsylvanian fall is notorious for chilly mornings yet warm afternoons. Wake up shivering, dreading to peak an inch from under the covers, and by the afternoon, a late soccer game has you drenched in sweat.
The solution? Programmable thermostats!
Unlike the traditional set-one-temperature thermostat, a programmable thermostat allows you to set temperatures for different times. Warm up your house to wake up, cool it down in the afternoon when no one is home, and program it to warm again when you return home.
Using the sun’s warming powers and simply not keeping an unoccupied house at pristine temperatures means you save money. Energy-efficient programmable thermostats are your solution for fall’s up-and-down weather!
Tips for setting an energy-efficient schedule
Knowing how to program your thermostat relies primarily on your owner’s manual. If you have long pitched that, simply google your brand. You will likely find a YouTube video with instructions to help with the details.
Make the most of your thermostat’s settings! As we race toward winter, aim to keep your home at 68 while it’s occupied. It may be cooler than you are used to, but according to the US Department of Energy, you can save 10% on your heating and cooling costs by turning your thermostat up or down 7 – 10 degrees from where you usually keep it.
Don’t worry! You don’t have to sit in frigid temperatures! You can turn it down while you sleep or are gone during the day. Program it to start to drop about an hour before you turn in for the night and warm back up about 30 minutes before your alarm goes off.
Insulate Doors and Windows
Do you have vivid memories of your parents standing by a window, blowing a sheet of plastic shrink wrap until it formed a perfectly flat barrier? It mesmerized us, warming the room instantly. What it also did was save a bundle on their energy bill.
Gaps around windows and doors are easier to ignore in the warm summer. But when the chill comes to the air, it’s impossible to ignore the frigid air seeping into your living room. Before Mother Nature brings Pennsylvania a potent dose of icy air, seal your gaps!
Weatherstripping is simply sealing off gaps around your doors and windows to prevent losing heated or cooled air. You can do this through a variety of methods.
- Door Sweeps: the door sweep along the bottom of your exterior doors may have worn out or warped with years of use. Replace the door sweep to all the doors leading into your home.
- Foam or Felt Tape: the advantage of foam or felt tape is that it is inexpensive to purchase. Apply the tape to wood or metal surfaces, and you are good to go. Felt isn’t as durable, so foam will last a bit longer.
- Tension-seal weatherstripping: these V-strips attach one side of the strip to the door frame. Then, when the door closes, the V creates a tension seal, locking out any ability for air to sneak in.
- Draft Stopper: generally in the form of two foam rolls connected by a strip of material in between, the strip of material runs along the bottom of the door, while the two foam rolls hug both sides of the bottom of a door. Then, when the door closes, they work as a barrier to air entry.
Energy-efficient window treatments
Now that you know how to care for your doors, let’s look at ways to protect your windows from drafts.
- Window Film: much akin to the window film from your childhood, this is sheet plastic that is attached to windows by way of double-sided tape. Once the film is taped on the window frame, a hair dryer shrink-wraps the window to a tight seal.
- Insulated Curtains: switching out your curtains for insulated curtains for the winters locks the cold air behind the fabric. Opening the curtains at various times of the day can let the sun warmth your home, but then shutting them again when the sun leaves the room or prior to dusk allows you to trap the heat in.
- Recaulk Windows: just because caulking is still present, it doesn’t mean it is keeping the same quality seal as when it was first placed. Recaulking your windows is a relatively inexpensive way to ensure the seal is in place before the weather drops.
Clean and Maintain Outdoor Units
The fall is an especially busy time for checking out your outdoor unit. With the trees dropping their leaves daily, one clearing of your outdoor unit may quickly become overrun with new leaves, sticks, dirt, and other debris.
This accumulation of nature’s foliage provides potential issues to your unit’s functioning ability. With debris cluttering the unit, it allows some debris to enter the unit, causing parts to stick or jam. Furthermore, the fans may not be able to function as well without adequate air exchange.
Aim to keep an area of at least two feet around your unit clean of debris throughout the fall. You may need to remove the fan grill to clean the corners of your unit. If this is the case, ensure you cut the power to your unit and use a vacuum with a hose for the areas you cannot reach.
If you hear any clicking noises, notice strange leaks, or the unit seems to no longer pull the same airflow, contact Leckron’s to come out and inspect the unit. While homeowners can handle some maintenance issues, others could lead to costly repairs. Our technicians are trained to handle all these strange clanks, whirs, and clanks.
Consider an HVAC Upgrade
If your system has been running sluggish or has had more repairs than you’d like to remember, consider upgrading your HVAC system this fall. Investing in an energy-efficient system right before winter makes sense, as your unit and wallet will be taxed with the promised snow to come.
With newer systems, your energy bills naturally decrease. To help homeowners purchase energy-efficient models, rebates and tax savings are available. If you are interested in upgrading but are hesitant about the price tag, Leckron’s has information on financing options, seasonal deals, incentives, and rebates for specific models.
Prepare for Winter
The beautiful fall days of open windows and perfect breezes won’t last long. We have to look ahead to what Pennsylvania has in store for us three months from now… if not sooner.
We know the importance of a working heating system, especially after getting a hefty dose of a winter wonderland. We need to prepare for revving up the heaters without risk of breakdown.
Until then, make sure going into the winter, your heater is ready, extra wood is cut, and food and water are in adequate supply. With intense weather patterns, we cannot count on the predictability of just a typical, freezing winter. Our storms may be harder and longer, so ensure you are ready for anything coming your way this winter.
Start with focusing on autumn HVAC maintenance. Your winter checklist is minimized by scheduling a maintenance visit from Leckron’s Comfort Solutions and taking care of many fall maintenance steps yourself. Wouldn’t you prefer to make your HVAC checks during a crisp 50-degree day than a 10-degree high when the furnace won’t kick on?
Very professional, punctual and most importantly, honest! It’s hard to find good service but Steven was very knowledgeable and didn’t try to make me pay for things that were unneeded! I’ll definitely use this company again! – Kaith R., Customer
Get your system ready before the winter weather woes!
Call Leckron’s today for an autumn HVAC inspection and consultation on autumn and winter needs.