Whether you’re a football fan, a foliage fanatic or a pumpkin spice addict, autumn in the northeast brings its fair share of trademark joys and jubilation when it blows into town each year around this time. Chief among them is the beautiful fall weather, a brief respite between the extreme temperatures of northeastern summers and winters that gives your home’s HVAC system some much needed time for rest, relaxation and TLC.
Since you no longer need your AC pumping at full blast to keep you cool and don’t need the furnace to stay warm yet, the more moderate autumn temperatures make it easy to forget about your HVAC system in the interim. While using your HVAC system less can be a good thing – especially when it comes to your utility bills – it’s important not to ignore it entirely, as fall provides a perfect window for crucial upkeep and maintenance.
Capitalizing on this transitional period helps to maintain a comfortable and efficient indoor environment throughout the fall and winter seasons, so to help you do just that, here’s sixteen HVAC tips for autumn!
Checking and changing your air filters on a regular basis is important no matter what season it is, but it’s especially crucial following a long summer of your system working overtime to keep you and your home cool. Summers are inherently rampant with dust, debris, dander, allergens and other varieties of airborne impurities, all of which can clog up your air filters, exponentially reducing both your system’s efficiency and your home’s indoor air quality.
With kids going back to school and people spending more time indoors, fall is already prime-time for the spread of germs and viral infections, so changing your air filters is a great first step to reinforcing your home’s indoor air quality.
Any time you change your air filters, you should also clean around your home’s air vents and registers. These vents are where air enters each separate room or section of a home, so keeping them clean and clear of dust and debris is just as essential to your air flow and indoor air quality as changing your vents.
Dusting or vacuuming these vents on a regular basis can help prevent debris buildup from affecting your system’s performance, which is all the more necessary post-summer for the reasons already mentioned. It’s also smart to keep the pathways in front of these vents clear of any furniture or other objects that could be obstructing the flow of air.
Unless your system is comprised entirely of ductless mini-splits, chances are your system relies on air ducts for distribution. Even minor leaks and gaps in your ductwork can lead to major problems for your system in terms of air flow, distribution and overall efficiency, so it’s important to keep an eye out for any such disturbances in your ductwork by inspecting them on a regular basis.
It costs more to heat a home than it does to cool it in most cases, so it’s especially crucial to take this step at some point prior to the winter season to ensure you haven’t sprung any new leaks. By properly sealing your ductwork, you increase your system’s energy efficiency, keeping you warmer for cheaper.
Just like you don’t want air escaping your ductwork via errant leaks and gaps, you also don’t want that temperate, conditioned air your system produces to escape from your home via leaks and cracks within the home. These types of air leaks are most common around doors and windows, so make sure you check all your door frames and window frames for leaks, cracks, gaps, draft spots, etc.
Making sure these problem areas are properly sealed and insulated helps to prevent drafts and increase energy efficiency, whereas letting them go unaddressed will lead to lower energy efficiency, uneven temperatures, uncomfortable cold spots, wasted air, and, perhaps worst of all, wasted money.
While the fall foliage in our region can be breathtaking this time of year, it’s only a matter of time before all those pretty leaves end up on the ground. Depending on your home’s setup and the situation of your outdoor HVAC unit, the excess of falling leaves and other vegetation can prove anywhere from slightly to extremely problematic for your system.
As the fall season progresses and the region’s plants shed their leafy coats for winter, it’s important to prevent this type of debris from accumulating on or around your outdoor unit in order to maintain proper air flow and system functionality.
One of the best ways to save money and stay comfortable when transitioning from summer to fall (and eventually from fall into winter) is to adapt and adjust your thermostat settings accordingly. The cooler, more moderate fall weather allows you to stay comfortable and temperate indoors without needing to crank the thermostat, so don’t forget to adjust your settings accordingly. Doing so will save your system the extra work and save you the extra money.
This can be tricky when temperatures start to fluctuate from day to day and even hour to hour. When you find yourself needing cool air one day and hot air the next, it’s helpful to stay on top of weather changes so you don’t jump the gun or overdue it. One tool that can be especially useful in this regard is a programmable or smart thermostat, which brings us to our next tip…
If you want to truly master your thermostat usage and haven’t done so already, you may want to consider upgrading to a smart thermostat. The added benefits of these cutting edge thermostats include remote temperature control, programmable and automated scheduling, energy tracking, advanced sensor technology for more accurate, even temperatures and more. They’re also able to be integrated with other home automation systems, giving you the ability to control things like lights, security and HVAC all from the same app.
With the convenience of remote climate control and energy tracking, smart thermostats will start saving you energy and money with your home HVAC instantly. Compared to other HVAC system upgrades, having a smart thermostat installed is a relatively cheap procedure from end to end. Plus, with the amount of money they can save you from month to month by improving your energy efficiency, they tend pay for themselves in no time.
As mentioned, there comes a tipping point each fall when the cold temperatures outside prompt the necessity for indoor heating. You can delay this inevitability, however, by taking advantage of natural heat and retaining it as long as possible. For instance, you can absorb the natural heat of sunlight just by opening your curtains during the day, and then retain that heat better at night by closing them once the sun goes down.
Simple practices like this help to stretch out that sweet spot in between cooling and heating your home where you really save big on your monthly HVAC bills by using your system so sparingly. It may not make a huge difference, but enough to buy you some time before you spend all your money on home heating…
Another great way to produce heat naturally and save money throughout the fall and winter seasons is to prepare yourself and your housemates for cooler nights. As mentioned, the natural heat of sunlight means less heat is required to stay comfortable indoors, which saves you energy and money up to a certain point during the daytime. But you can save even more energy and money once the sun goes down if you can resist the temptation and reduce the need for increased heating overnight.
By switching out those lighter summer sheets for some warmer bedding, adding an extra layer or opting for some cozier pajamas as opposed to an extra few degrees on the thermostat, you save a ton of money each month on home heating. That said, the whole point of home heating is not having to go to extremes to stay comfortable in extreme temperatures, so there’s a balance to be struck between comfort and savings in this case. Whichever you lean towards is your prerogative.
If there is any equipment or particular part of your system that you use exclusively during the hotter summer months, such as window AC units, portable fans, dehumidifiers, etc., you should properly cover or (if possible) store them once you’re done using them for the season. This is important to do during the fall so you don’t end up putting it off risk said equipment being damaged by winter weather.
You should also prepare your outdoor unit/s for the upcoming winter weather by keeping them clear of debris and have a plan in place for snow and ice removal during winter storms to ensure your system can continue functioning properly when you need it most.
Whether you have a brand new system or not, if you haven’t done so already, it’s never a bad idea to learn as much as possible about your heating system and its various features before you use them. If you’re not familiar with your system’s settings, functions, menu options, etc., your system may contain untapped potential that could be maximizing your comfort and efficiency in ways you wouldn’t even be aware of otherwise.
The more you know about the way your heating system works and how everything functions, the quicker you’ll be able to tell if and when something isn’t working. You may even be able to troubleshoot issues on your own and resolve them without having to hire a professional.
Once the weather outside is consistently cold enough, virtually every northeastern household reaches a certain tipping point when it’s time to turn the heat on for the winter. Before you reach this tipping point, it’s important to make sure your heating system is functioning properly. When furnaces and other heating apparatuses sit dormant for long periods of time, it’s not uncommon for new issues to arise once they’re finally rebooted. Testing your heating system during the fall gives you an opportunity to identify and address any such issues so that you can ensure proper functionality before colder temperatures arrive.
With most modern systems, switching from heating to cooling is as simple as pressing a button or flipping a switch on your thermostat. That said, the exact SOP can vary from system to system, so we recommend referencing your system’s manual to ensure you follow the proper steps to switch from cooling to heating mode.
Most indoor heating systems use some type of natural gas to keep your home’s air warm during the winter, but a major safety concern that arises from burning fuel in this manner is the production of carbon monoxide, and the potential for this odorless, invisible and potentially harmful gas to leak out into your home’s air in poisonous quantities without you knowing.
Since carbon monoxide can’t be smelled, seen or tasted by human senses, we rely on carbon monoxide detectors to monitor the carbon monoxide levels in our homes in each winter. Before you start heating your home, check your carbon monoxide detectors to confirm they are turned on and functioning properly, and be sure to change their batteries if needed.
In addition to carbon monoxide poisoning, even the most advanced home heating systems will inevitably increase your risk of fires starting within the home. It’s important to be aware of this risk and the various possibilities attached to it, and it’s important to have certain safety measures and procedures in place.
In addition to checking smoke alarms and cleaning fireplaces to help prevent fires, it’s important to establish certain rules and practices regarding any and all home heating apparatuses – whether it’s a fireplace, a thermostat or a radiator – to ensure the safe and proper use of all the above. This is especially important if you have young children or multiple roommates living in your home.
The transitional period between summer and fall is the ideal time for a bi-annual system checkup and/or maintenance appointment from a trusted HVAC professional. Having your system inspected by a professional helps to ensure system reliability and address any potential issues that may be present.
If any maintenance or repairs are needed, techs may have to shut your system off for anywhere from a few minutes to a few days. Scheduling this type of inspection during fall saves you from having to take even more drastic measures in the middle of winter, when you’ll inevitably be more reliant on your system for heat on a daily basis.
Just to recap everything we’ve gone over here so you don’t forget, here’s all the tips we covered in this article:
Following these 15 tips will help you have a comfortable, efficient and cost effective fall, followed by a seamless transition into the cooler winter months ahead. Best of luck, stay cozy and have an awesome autumn!
Thanks for reading and be sure to check out our other articles for more helpful HVAC info and money saving tips! If you have any questions or wish to schedule a checkup with a company you can trust, the HVAC pros at Maichle’s are here to help. Click the Text Us button at the bottom of the page to message one of our experts or give us a call at (302) 328-4822 for 24/7 HVAC service you can depend on!