Whether you’re welcoming just one out-of-town guest to your home this holiday season or you’re planning a Christmas staycation, now is the time to make sure your HVAC system is ready. The last thing you’ll want to wake up to is a malfunctioning heat pump or furnace, especially if you have guests on the way. At All Hours Plumbing, Drain Cleaning, Heating & Air, our skilled technicians in Salt Lake City, UT, offer these tips to get your home’s HVAC system ready for the holidays.

1. Change the Air Filter

One of the most important things you need to do for your HVAC system in advance of the holidays is to change your air filter. The air filter is typically located in its own housing. It’s part of the air handling system. The housing door should be marked, or you can use the manufacturer’s diagram to locate it. You may need a screwdriver to access the air filter compartment. Slide out the old air filter. If you see dust or dirt in it, throw it out. Insert a new air filter. Be sure to line the arrows for proper air filter alignment. Check the filter monthly, and don’t wait more than three months between air filter changes.

2. Test the Carbon Monoxide Detector

If you have a gas furnace or any other gas-powered appliance, test your carbon monoxide detector. These detectors have a 10-year lifespan. However, their batteries should be tested every three to six months and replaced every one to two years. Even if your carbon monoxide detector is hard-wired into your home, it still needs batteries. The batteries provide backup power in case of an electricity outage.

3. Check the Thermostat Settings

If you haven’t yet needed to use your HVAC system’s heating function, now is a good time to check the thermostat settings. Make sure the system is set to “heat.” If it’s set to “auto”, and your home gets warm from using the oven, your air conditioner could turn on. Once you’ve verified that the HVAC system is set on the heating function, check its fan function. The “on” setting makes the fan run constantly, which will wear out the motor and necessitate more frequent air filter replacements. The “on” setting for the fan will also make your HVAC system blow room-temperature air, which might feel cold. Switch the fan to the “auto” setting. The “auto” setting triggers the fan to only turn on when a heating cycle starts.

4. Clean the Vent Covers

Dust may have built up on your home’s vent covers. Now is a good time to use your vacuum cleaner’s brush attachment to remove the dust. You can also remove the vent covers and wipe them with a microfiber cloth dipped in warm, soapy water. While the vent covers are off, use your vacuum cleaner’s extension hose to remove debris from around the vent opening. Dry the covers before returning them. Move any boxes or other items that might be blocking the vents. Be sure all the vents are in the open position.

5. Schedule Duct Cleaning

If you saw a lot of dust in your ducts after removing the vent covers, there’s still time to schedule professional duct cleaning before the holidays. Debris buildup in the ducts hinders airflow. With less airflow, your heating system has to work harder. This causes excessive wear and tear and could shorten the system’s lifespan. The decreased airflow also lowers your home’s comfort. During the duct cleaning process, the technicians will also check and tell you if there are any damaged or leaky areas that need to be repaired. Leaky ducts could waste up to 30% of the heated air produced by your HVAC system.

6. Adjust the Temperature

When you’re using the oven to bake a ham or pies or roast a turkey, your home could get quite warm. If you’re also using the burners to boil potatoes and you have the holiday parade on television, all these heat-generating appliances could make your house too warm. Consider lowering the temperature on your thermostat to account for the use of your oven and other heat-generating electronics. If you’ll be traveling for the holidays, you can also set your thermostat a few degrees lower. Keep the temperature at 60 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. This will prevent your home’s pipes from freezing.

7. Use the Ceiling Fans

Hot air rises, and your ceiling fan can push it down from the ceiling and back to the lower level of the room. This will increase your comfort level, and you won’t have to raise the thermostat’s temperature setting. Be sure to set the fan to rotate in a clockwise direction. This pushes the warm air down and pulls the cool air up to the return vent. Put the fan on the lowest speed. Be sure to wipe the fan blades once a week. This removes dust and sticky residue.

8. Keep Flammable Holiday Items Away From HVAC Systems

During the holidays, your home may have more flammable materials in it than usual. Keep wrapping paper, gift boxes and bags and other items at least 3 feet away from your furnace, heat pump, air handler and vents. Avoid storing wood for your fireplace near your vents or HVAC system. Furnaces and heat pumps, including the outdoor unit of the heat pump, need at least 3 feet of clearance in all directions. It’s also a good idea to install a smoke detector near your heating system in case of a malfunction that causes a spark.

9. Look for Air Leaks

Now is a good time to check your home for air leaks. You can do this with a match or candle. You can also schedule an energy audit of your home. Unwanted air leaks could waste the heated air produced by your heating system, and those leaks will drastically increase your heating bills. Air leaks are most common around door and window frames, chimneys, flues and openings for electrical, phone, cable, internet and plumbing. You can use weatherstripping, sprayed foam, steel wool or caulk to seal the little gaps and cracks.

10. Schedule a Tune-Up

If you haven’t scheduled a heating tune-up yet this season, it’s not too late to do it now. A heating system tune-up ensures your furnace, boiler or heat pump is in a safe condition. The tune-up also includes cleaning and a system performance test to make sure it’s operating as efficiently as possible. A well-maintained heating system has a longer lifespan and costs 30% less to operate compared to a neglected one.

At All Hours Plumbing, Drain Cleaning, Heating & Air, we’re the trusted source for heating system maintenance in Salt Lake City and the surrounding areas. Our heating and air conditioning repair, replacement and installation services keep you comfortable year-round. We’re also prepared to provide you with reliable water heaters, water softeners, fireplaces, sewer line, drain cleaning and septic services. If you’re a local business owner, you can turn to us for affordable commercial heating, air conditioning and plumbing services. To learn more holiday HVAC tips, give us at All Hours Plumbing, Drain Cleaning, Heating & Air a call today.