Transitioning Your HVAC from Cooling to Heating for Winter

Transitioning Your HVAC from Cooling to Heating for Winter - Lee Company

Homeowners have a lot on their plate when it comes to preparing for the colder months. One important task that should be at the top of your “honey-do” list is transitioning your HVAC system from cooling to heating.

Just like you pack away the shorts and tank tops and pull out the sweaters and jackets, your HVAC system also needs to make a seasonal switch. This transition not only keeps your home warm during the winter but also helps you save money on those eye-popping energy bills.

Below, we’ll explore how to prepare your furnace for winter heating, the importance of winter HVAC maintenance, and troubleshooting tips in case your furnace goes out during the coldest time of the year.

Understanding the Benefits of Seasonal HVAC Maintenance

Think you can just switch your thermostat from “cool” to “heat” and call it a day? Think again. This seamless shift doesn’t just happen magically — at least not if you want your HVAC system to work efficiently and reliably.

Simple tasks like changing filters, checking thermostat functionality, and ensuring vents are unobstructed can make a dramatic difference in your system’s efficiency and longevity. According to ENERGY STAR, even something as seemingly insignificant as a dirty filter or airflow obstructions can result in a 15% increase in your energy consumption!

By preparing your furnace for winter, you’re not only saving money on your energy bills but also avoiding costly repairs or early replacement. Seasonal HVAC maintenance can catch small issues before they become big problems, keeping your system running smoothly and extending its lifespan.

To recap, seasonal HVAC maintenance helps you:

  • Reduce winter heating costs
  • Increase energy efficiency
  • Minimize the risk of emergency repairs
  • Improve system longevity

The Difference Between Cooling and Heating Systems

As we’ve established, transitioning your HVAC system from cooling to heating isn’t just flipping a switch; it’s understanding the unique demands each season places on your system. Here in Tennessee, where the summers are as warm as the winters are brisk, knowing these differences is crucial for both comfort and cost.

Cooling Mode

During the sweltering summer months, your HVAC system works tirelessly to extract warm air from your home, replacing it with cooler, conditioned air. Here’s what that looks like:

  1. Refrigerant Cycle: The refrigerant circulates through coils, absorbing heat from inside your home and releasing it outside.
  2. Compressor and Evaporator Coils: The compressor pumps the refrigerant between two sets of coils. In the evaporator coils inside your home, the refrigerant absorbs heat, turning from a liquid into a gas.
  3. Condenser Coils: Outside, in the condenser coils, this gas turns back into a liquid, releasing its heat into the outdoor air.
  4. Air Handler and Blower: These components circulate the now-cooled air throughout your home and draw warm air back for cooling.
  5. Thermostat Regulation: The thermostat tells your system when to start and stop based on your desired temperature.

Heating Mode

For home heating, the process reverses. The furnace, usually powered by gas or electricity, heats the air and sends it through the ductwork to warm your home. Here’s what that looks like:

  1. Furnace Mechanics: Unlike cooling, which removes heat, the furnace creates heat. If it’s a gas furnace, it burns natural gas or propane in a combustion chamber. An electric furnace uses heating elements (like big versions of toaster coils) to generate heat.
  2. Heat Exchanger: This component is crucial. It’s a series of coils or tubes that heat the air without mixing combustion gasses (like carbon monoxide) with the air inside your home.
  3. Blower Motor: Once the air is heated, the blower motor sends it through your home’s ductwork, spreading warmth.
  4. Thermostat Signals: Your thermostat switches the furnace on and off to maintain the set temperature.

Why the Maintenance Difference?

As you can see, the cooling and heating modes are fundamentally different. Because of these unique processes, your HVAC system requires specific maintenance for each season.

Air Filter Maintenance

  • Cooling: Dirty filters can reduce efficiency, making your system work harder and use more energy.
  • Heating: A clogged filter in heating mode can cause overheating, potentially damaging your furnace and posing a safety risk.

System Specific Checks

  • Cooling: Low refrigerant levels can lead to inefficient cooling and even damage the compressor.
  • Heating: The focus shifts to inspecting the furnace’s burner or heating elements so that they operate safely and efficiently.

Ductwork and Ventilation

  • Cooling: Clear ducts and vents ensure optimal airflow, even cooling, and efficient performance.
  • Heating: Clear ducts and vents prevent fire hazards and ensure harmful gasses like carbon monoxide are safely expelled from your home.

Condensate Drain Check

  • Cooling: Ensure the drain is clear to prevent water buildup and potential damage to the system.
  • Heating: For high-efficiency furnaces, check the condensate line to prevent water buildup and freezing in colder temperatures.

Outdoor Unit Care

  • Cooling: The external unit needs to be clear of debris and obstructions for effective heat release.
  • Heating: For systems with heat pumps, the outdoor unit requires checks for ice buildup and blockages during winter.

While the HVAC system’s goal is the same – to keep your home comfortable – the mechanisms it uses and the maintenance it requires vary significantly between cooling and heating modes. Understanding and addressing these differences means your system will run better no matter the season.

What to Include in Your Winter HVAC Maintenance Routine

Now that you understand the importance of seasonal HVAC maintenance let’s dive into what should be on your checklist. Here’s how to prepare your furnace for winter:

  • Ensure the furnace ignition and burner are functioning properly.
  • Check for any signs of wear, damage, or corrosion.
  • Clean or replace filters.
  • Test your thermostat so that it accurately measures and regulates indoor temperatures.
  • Look for leaks or gaps in ductwork. Duct cleaning is also recommended.
  • Clear all supply and return vents of obstructions for optimal airflow and even heating.
  • Look for cracks or damage in the heat exchanger, as these can lead to dangerous carbon monoxide leaks.
  • Evaluate all safety controls to make sure they are operational to prevent potential hazards.
  • Lubricate moving parts to reduce friction in motors and bearings. This can prolong the lifespan of your HVAC system.

Can you DIY a lot of these tasks? Absolutely. But a professional eye can catch what you might miss.

A professional winter furnace tune-up includes a thorough inspection, cleaning, and maintenance of all components. Plus, a trained technician can troubleshoot home heating problems and provide advice on how to best maintain your specific system.

Reducing Winter Heating Costs with Energy-Efficient Heating Tips

Here in Tennessee, we rank 16th among the most expensive states in terms of monthly utility costs. And in 2023, home heating contributed to 42% of all energy consumption.

So, homeowners, this is the time to tighten those belts and start saving on your winter heating costs!

Here are some energy-efficient heating tips to help reduce your utility bills this winter:

  • 68℉ is the optimal thermostat setting for heating that is energy-efficient. Every additional degree over 68℉ can raise energy costs by 3%. So just 10 additional degrees could raise your monthly bill by a whopping 30%!
  • Lower the thermostat a few degrees when you’re not home or asleep. By adjusting your thermostat back by 7-10°F for eight hours a day from its usual setting, you can potentially save up to 10% annually on heating and cooling costs.
  • Instead of remembering to manually adjust your thermostat, use a programmable thermostat so you can schedule temperature changes throughout the day. According to ENERGY STAR, homeowners who use programmable thermostats correctly save around $180 annually.
  • Check for air leaks around your doors and windows. In the average home, between 25-40% of energy consumed for heating and cooling is attributed to air leakage.
  • Consider investing in a smart thermostat that can learn your habits and adjust temperatures accordingly. Plus, you can conveniently control it remotely with your smartphone!

What to Do When Your Furnace Goes Out in the Winter

No matter how diligent you are with winter HVAC maintenance, there’s always a chance that your furnace might go out during the colder months. Here’s what to do if your furnace stops working in winter:

Check Your Thermostat

Sometimes, the issue is as simple as the settings on your thermostat. Ensure it’s set to “heat” and the temperature is high enough to trigger the furnace. If it’s an older model that uses batteries, replace them to make sure it’s functioning properly.

Inspect the Power Supply

Make sure your furnace’s power switch is on. Also, check your home’s fuse box or circuit breaker to ensure there isn’t a tripped breaker or blown fuse.

Look at the Furnace Filter

A clogged filter can restrict airflow and cause your furnace to shut down. Check if it needs cleaning or replacing.

Check the Gas Valve

For gas furnaces, ensure the gas valve is open and supplying fuel. It’s usually located near the furnace and should be parallel to the gas line when open.

Examine the Pilot Light

If you have an older furnace with a pilot light, check if it’s lit. If not, follow your furnace’s instructions to relight it safely.

Inspect the Flue Vent

A blocked or improperly functioning flue vent can be dangerous. Make sure it’s clear of obstructions like bird nests, leaves, or other debris.

Check Air Vents

Check that all vents in your home are open and not blocked by furniture. This helps with proper airflow.

Observe the Furnace’s Response

After performing these checks, observe if the furnace starts up or makes any noises. Sounds like banging, whistling, or grinding can indicate specific heating problems.

Professional Checks for Your Home Heating Problem

At this point, if you’re still experiencing a home heating problem, you’ll want to call a professional HVAC technician for help. Trying to fix a furnace yourself can cause further damage if done incorrectly. Plus, having a professional come in can help prevent any potential safety hazards like:

  • Carbon monoxide leaks
  • Electrical hazards from damaged wiring or malfunctioning parts
  • Fire risks due to faulty components

An experienced and licensed HVAC technician can troubleshoot common heating problems and provide recommendations on what to do next. They will also perform a thorough inspection of your furnace, ensuring it’s safe to use. These checks are especially necessary if you haven’t been keeping up with regular furnace tune-ups.

Along with knowing how to handle all the HVAC heating problems and solutions above, professionals know what to do when the furnace goes out in winter and will:

  • Inspect the heat exchanger for cracks or damage that could lead to dangerous carbon monoxide leaks
  • Test for carbon monoxide levels and ensure they’re within safe limits
  • Evaluate electrical connections and wiring for any signs of wear or damage
  • Check the furnace’s internal components, like the blower motor and ignition system, for optimal performance
  • Perform a thorough cleaning of the furnace to remove any built-up dirt or debris that can affect its operation
  • Repair or replace any malfunctioning parts to get your furnace back up and running efficiently
  • Provide tips for future maintenance to help prevent similar issues from arising in the future.

What to Expect from Emergency Furnace Repair Services

It always seems to be the coldest night of the year when your furnace suddenly decides to break. When the house starts to chill, and your family huddles under blankets, you’ll want your furnace fixed fast. This is when you need a reliable 24-hour furnace repair service.

At Lee Company, we understand these emergencies can happen at any time. That’s why our team of experienced technicians is available around the clock for 24-hour furnace repair in Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, and Alabama. Whether it’s a weekend, holiday, or in the dead of night, we’re just a call away to make sure your family stays warm and safe.

Our emergency services include:

  • Rapid response to furnace breakdowns.
  • Expert diagnosis and efficient repair of all HVAC heating problems and solutions.
  • A thorough safety check to prevent risks like carbon monoxide leaks and electrical hazards.

Yes, transitioning your HVAC system from cooling to heating and investing in a winter furnace tune-up can help avoid many common issues (and our home maintenance plan makes it affordable to do so). But when the unexpected happens, Lee Company’s emergency furnace repair services are here to help you through those chilly winter emergencies. Contact us now and rest easy knowing professional help is always available.

Need help getting your HVAC ready for winter?

CALL US NOW AT 615.567.1000