Winter is coming. Before it was a catchphrase on your favorite fantasy soap opera, it was the longstanding motto of HVAC technicians everywhere. That’s because plunging temperatures and wintry weather can be rough on your heating equipment—and there’s nothing worse than waking up on a cold morning to find out your heater’s given out.

And then there’s the issue of your heating bills. Ill-maintained equipment is often inefficient. And that can cause heating expenses to skyrocket. A little preventative maintenance can save you a lot in the long run—but only if you act fast. Here’s how to keep yourself in the clear all the way until spring.

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Furnace-filterChange Your Furnace Filters

The easiest HVAC maintenance task is also one of the most important. Dirty filters prevent heated air flow. As a result, your system expends more energy getting less heated air to your home—not exactly what we’d call a great deal. And the harder your system has to work, the more likely it is to break down—which means you spend more money on expensive repairs. Do yourself a favor and change the filters once a month to keep your system operating smoothly all year.


Prep Your Fireplace

A fireplace is a cheery source of heat on a cold winter’s day, but only when they’re kept up with regular TLC. You should have a chimney sweep performed at least once a year. Professional chimney cleaners can remove creosote buildup—a mixture of tar, soot, and debris—which can ignite and cause fire damage if not properly treated. Sweeps should also inspect the chimney liner and outer structure for cracks—the openings that contribute to drafts in your home. Expect to spend $125 to $250 for each visit.


Improve Your Insulation

Your home’s heating amounts to a lot more than just a furnace. It’s a complicated system made out of vents, ducts, wiring, and registers—all of which operate more efficiently in a home that’s properly insulated. Take a moment to inspect your insulation, particularly in your attic and crawl space. Look for water damage on the ceiling and attic walls, because water infiltration can render insulation ineffective. If you have questions about your insulation, you may want to hire a contractor to perform a professional insulation inspection. Inspectors will measure airflow, and they can tell if your insulation has gaps or is inadequate. They’ll also seek out signs of pests like rodents and roaches, critters that love to stow away in attics during cold weather.

HVAC inspection

Have an HVAC Technician Out to Visit

Because HVAC systems are complicated, it’s good to get some help from the pros. A professional service visit from an HVAC technician gives you expert-level inspection from a trained specialist. During these service visits, technicians check the wiring and look for damage and clogs in your unit and ducts. They’ll also seek out holes and fissures that can lead to carbon monoxide leaks, which makes these inspections extra valuable to your family’s health and happiness. Last of all, HVAC inspectors make recommendations for how to get your system more energy efficient, such as improvements to ducts and duct insulation, air sealing, and ventilation. Fixes like these could save you hundreds each year in reduced energy costs—now that should make you feel all warm and cozy inside!