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Your Comprehensive HVAC Winter Prep Checklist

The days are starting to get chillier, the nights are approaching sooner, and leaves are beginning to change color. Not only does that mean you get to start picking out pumpkins and enjoying your favorite pumpkin-flavored beverages once again, it also means it’s time to start thinking about your home heating system. After all, nobody wants to find themselves with a failed furnace when those winter temperatures come a-knocking!

Having a good prep plan in place for your HVAC system each year is important to keeping it running right and helping you get the most from your investment. A good plan will include things that you do yourself, but it should also rely on a skilled professional to make sure everything’s on track.

Table of Contents

The Quick Maintenance Checklist

Take a look at this quick checklist for an overview of all the tasks you should complete for HVAC prep before each winter season. It’s an easy way to keep track of what you still have to do.


  • Clear heat pump of vegetation (if applicable)
  • Cover AC condenser for winter (if applicable)


  • Replace or clean air filter
  • Clean clutter around furnace
  • Check pilot light
  • Clear off registers
  • Test furnace and thermostat for proper functioning
  • Clean out humidifier water panel (if applicable)
  • Replace batteries in carbon monoxide detector and test

Seek Professional Help

  • Get an expert in to look over the system before the season

Outdoor Care

Whether you have an outdoor AC condenser or a heat pump, there’s work to be done outside before you worry about anything indoors.

First, clear away vegetation that’s grown up around your heat pump if you have one. This helps keep it free so air can flow freely.

Then, slip a cover back over your AC condenser to protect it against snowfall, sleet, and any other conditions it doesn’t have to be exposed to during those cool months.

These steps won’t apply to everyone, but if either applies to you, make sure you take care of them first and foremost. You can’t control what your weather’s going to do, after all.

Indoor Care

Furnace Filter Picture

Once you’ve squared everything away outside, it’s time to take care of some indoor tasks to help keep your heating unit running properly. Start off by clearing away any clutter around your furnace. Make sure there are several feet of open space around all sides of the unit.

Clean or Replace the Filter

Replace the air filter in your unit, or clean out the filter if it’s reusable. A clean filter allows air to flow freely and boosts the efficiency of your unit. It’s important that you keep the filter clean throughout the operating cycle. That usually means switching the filter out at least once a month, so stock up so you’re prepared!

Check Your Humidifier and Swap Out Batteries

If you have a full-house humidifier, clean out the water panel so it’s clean and ready for operation. It’s important to make sure the unit is free from mold, and it’s advisable to clear out any debris so that it’s ready for operation. Finally, replace your carbon monoxide detector batteries to keep you safe from any furnace mishaps. The batteries should be changed annually to keep your family safe. Test the unit to verify that it’s functioning properly after the change.

2022 Homeowner Storm Guide

Explore the guide

Basic Testing

Before you even think about running your system full time, you have to test it out and make sure everything’s running properly. Check your pilot light to make sure it’s lit properly. Now turn your thermostat up to at least 75 and wait for your heat to kick on. While waiting, walk around your home and clear all your registers of obstructions. Feel each register to make sure warm air’s coming out. A lack of air flow could indicate a problem with your system. If your system’s blowing out warm air, congratulations—your furnace is working just fine! If not, you have a problem to sort out before it gets colder.

Professional Help

It’s good practice to get a professional in to take a look at your system before each operating season. An expert can give the system a thorough inspection and make sure everything truly is running properly. Those annual inspections will help you find and repair minor issues before they can turn into something serious!

What the Pros Should Check

While in your home, an expert should take a look at the burner assembly of your furnace, the ignition system, the heat exchanger, the gas system on any gas furnaces, and the combustion blower for proper performance. It’s also good that the inspector has a look at the air filter (though you should do this) and the fan belt. Finally, he should verify the control box is in working order and take a look at any of the system wiring to look for corrosion.

Your home’s heating system is one of the most vital components you have. You rely on it every year to keep you and your family warm throughout the cold winter months. Why not take the time to really make sure it’s going to work properly? This checklist probably sounds like a lot of work, but the steps are pretty simple, and going through them will help save you time, money, and a lot of headaches down the road.

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