This is the time of year when temperatures are fairly comfortable outside — things aren’t too warm or too cold. But, as we all know, they don’t remain that way year-round. Fortunately, there are some simple things you can do around your house to help keep it comfortable throughout the year — all without having to spend a lot of money!
Tip #1: Have a professional maintain your heating and cooling systems.
You take your car to the mechanic for oil changes and tune-ups to keep it running as well as it can, right? Have a professional maintain your home’s furnace and air conditioner, as well. Without proper maintenance, these units can’t run efficiently. That could cost you on your monthly energy bills, because a dirty, dusty AC or furnace will likely be working overtime to keep your home comfortable. That could result in premature wear and tear.
To avoid these problems, schedule an annual appointment for both your heating system and your air conditioner. You may choose to have both systems serviced at the same time, or you may decide to have your AC tuned up before the heat of the summer arrives, and your furnace serviced before Old Man Winter comes. The choice is yours, but have them both maintained each year.
During a maintenance appointment, a professional heating and cooling technician will clean and inspect all working components inside the heater and/or air conditioner unit(s). He or she will be able to pinpoint potential problems, as well, before they may result in a breakdown of the system(s). The technician will also inspect for safety issues, such as natural gas or carbon monoxide leaks with your heating system, or wiring problems that could potentially lead to a fire.
Tip #2: Change your air filter regularly.
Along with maintenance work performed by a professional, there’s also some upkeep that you should be taking care of yourself. It’s important for you to swap out your air filter monthly, more often if you have pets or anyone who smokes in your home, as these factors could contribute to your filter getting dirtier much quicker.
The filter is likely installed as part of your heating system, but because your furnace and AC use the same blower and ductwork, ALL air from either system must pass through it. Don’t neglect to replace it during the spring and summer months just because you are not using your heating system.
When the filter isn’t changed often, it gets blocked with dirt, dust, pet hair, skin dander, and other airborne pollutants in your home. This makes it difficult for conditioned air from your heating and cooling systems to pass through. As a result, it could cause the units to work overtime to keep your home comfortable, regardless of the season. Additionally, a dirty air filter could cause serious problems for anyone in your family who suffers from allergies or respiratory problems, such as asthma.
If you aren’t sure what size replacement filter you need, check your owner’s manual or look at the specifications on the current filter. Write them down or take a picture of them before you head out to purchase a replacement.
Tip #3: Seal your window and door frames.
Many homeowners don’t realize that some of the most common areas for energy loss in a home are gaps in window and door frames. As time passes, the seals around these frames may weaken and leave areas where conditioned air from your furnace or AC can escape. These are also openings where cold or hot air from outside can get in. When this happens, you may notice drafts during the fall and winter months, or a living space that feels warmer than it should in the spring and summer — even with the AC running.
To determine if your home has this problem, perform a “hand” test around the frames of your windows and doors. Run your hand around the frames and make note of any areas where you can feel warm or cold air actively getting through. Purchase sealant from your local hardware store or online and use it around these weakened areas to help prevent air from getting in or out. In return, you’ll have a much more comfortable home year-round, and your heating and cooling systems may not need to work as hard.
Tip #4: Check your vents.
If you have one area or room that seems to always feel warmer or colder than the rest of your home, check the vents. Often, homeowners will place furniture, rugs or curtains in front of vents. When this happens, conditioned air from your furnace or air conditioner can’t easily pass through, leading to the temperature differences in your space.
Along with making sure the vents are clear throughout your home, clean them regularly so that they aren’t full of dirt, pet hair, dust, etc. from your day-to-day life.
Many homeowners also wonder how often duct cleaning should be performed in their homes. The general answer is every few years. A professional will be able to thoroughly clean them to be sure there isn’t any build-up of dirt or dust, and he or she will also be able to pinpoint any cracks or holes in them that need to be repaired or replaced. Damaged duct work could also be preventing warm or cool air from your heating and cooling systems from reaching all areas of your home.
Tip #5: Install humidifiers and dehumidifiers.
Humidity is the measure of moisture in the air. Too much humidity in your home could lead to problems like mold and mildew growing on bathroom surfaces, peeling/cracking/blistering paint or wallpaper, excessive dust mites, and even the formation of condensation on windows during the colder months of the year. Not enough humidity could lead to things like itchy and dry skin, hardwood floor shrinkage, damage to wooden furniture/fireplace mantles/ceiling fans/etc., and severe static electricity.
Both high/low humidity problems can occur in your home during any season of the year. There are a variety of humidification and dehumidification systems — or humidifiers and dehumidifiers — available for homeowners. Do some research or ask an HVAC pro to help you determine which is best for your family’s homes, needs, and budget to keep them comfortable year-round.
Don’t forget to switch the direction of your ceiling fan blades to spin clockwise (when looking up at them) during the fall and winter months and counterclockwise during the spring and summer. When your fan is spinning clockwise during the cooler seasons, it prevents warm air from getting trapped at your ceilings and instead pushes it back down on your family. When your fan is spinning in a counterclockwise direction, it pushes cool air generated from your AC back onto you and your loved ones.