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The official start of the fall season is Wednesday, September 22. While you may have enjoyed the summer sun and warm temperatures the past few months, colder weather is on the way — be sure your home is ready. With the assistance of one of our experienced heating and cooling technicians, we’ve put together some FAQs to help you ensure your home is well prepared for the upcoming season.

Q: How often do I need to schedule maintenance for my furnace?

A: You should schedule a tune-up for your heating system every year. It’s important that you schedule this type of maintenance before winter arrives so that you can rest assured knowing your furnace will be able to handle the cold temperatures (and the extra use it will get). At this appointment, a technician will inspect your unit to be sure it’s clean and working right. Most of the time, if a problem is detected, it can be taken care of on the spot — before the worst of the cold weather arrives.

Q: Is there any type of heating maintenance I can do myself as a homeowner?

A: Absolutely. You can be sure to replace your furnace’s air filter every month. The job of the filter is to trap airborne particles and keep them from making their way into your family’s living space. Everything from pet hair to dirt and dust adhere to this filter. Failure to replace it could cause a lot of problems for your heating system and your home’s indoor air quality.

A clogged air filter makes it nearly impossible for your heater to push warm air through it, and any air that does get through will have these airborne pollutants from the filter mixed in with it. This could spell trouble for anyone who suffers from respiratory problems or has allergies.

Additionally, another simple maintenance item any homeowner can do is to check and make sure their vents aren’t blocked. You’d be surprised how often we get calls for service and the problem turns out to be that curtains, rugs or furniture are blocking the air flow. A vent that is obstructed won’t allow warm air to make it into living space.

Q: What problems could a dirty filter cause for my furnace?

A: A dirty and dusty air filter doesn’t allow air to pass through very easily. As a result, your furnace will be working overtime to try and meet your heating needs. This extra use could lead to premature wear and tear on your unit, as well as excessively high energy bills.

Q: What kind of replacement air filter will I need?

A: If you aren’t sure what size or MERV-rating you need for your replacement filter, check the owner’s manual that came with your furnace. You can also take a look at the filter you’re going to replace — it will usually have a size and MERV-rating printed on it, and you can match that. We generally advise that the replacement filter you choose doesn’t have a super-high MERV-rating. Those filters catch more contaminants, but they also let less air through them!

Q: Do you have any tips or tricks for helping me to keep my home warm?

A: Yes! During days when the sun is out, open your curtains and let in the natural light. You’d be amazed by how much warmer the inside of your home will feel. Also, you can make sure that your ceiling fan’s blades are spinning in a clockwise direction as you look up. This will help to push rising warm air back down onto your family. This can help you stay comfortable on even the chilliest fall and winter days.

Q: Besides maintaining my furnace, what else do I need to do to get my home ready for winter?

A: Check around your windows and doors for any gaps and holes. When you have openings there, cold air from outside can easily get in — and warm air from inside the house can escape. Don’t make your furnace work even harder to keep your home warm, and don’t pay higher energy bills because you’re letting heat escape. Take care of the problem by adding extra weatherstripping to any openings in your window and door frames.

Separate from your heating system, you can also make sure that your outdoor furniture is put away before the snow and ice of winter arrive. Store these items, as well as your garden hose in your shed, garage, or basement. Speaking of your garden hose, you should make sure it is drained before storing it as any water inside may freeze and ruin the hose!

This is also a great time to check your roof and gutters for any damage that may have occurred due to summer storms. Get missing shingles, damaged downspouts, etc. taken care of now — before the worst of the winter weather arrives and causes more problems.

Q: Do you have any final tips for helping my family’s home stay protected this fall and winter?

A: Well, of course! Consider enrolling in the Heating System Repair Plan offered by American Water Resources. When you’re enrolled and a covered problem occurs with your furnace, you can just pick up the phone and give us a call. A friendly customer care expert will work with our network of service providers to find a local technician who can come to your home to diagnose and treat the problem — and get your family in a warm and comfy house again!