Diamond Certified Experts: Getting Your Furnace Winter-Ready

by Matt Solis


A crucial part of autumn home maintenance is getting your furnace ready for winter. Photo: AIS Heating & Air Conditioning ©2021

It’s autumn once again—the season of scarves, colorful leaves and pumpkin everything. However, with winter right around the corner, it’s also a time to prepare for the upcoming cold, wet weather. One of the most important aspects of winter preparation is making sure your furnace is in proper operating condition, which isn’t as easy as it sounds. To help you hit all the bases, we’ve asked seven Diamond Certified Expert Contributors to provide their furnace-related tips.

Test your furnace early.

The last thing you want when you go to turn on your furnace for the first time in winter is to find out it isn’t working. That’s why Kevin Comerford of Service Champions recommends testing your furnace before it’s needed. “Despite being inactive all summer, it’s not unusual for a furnace to develop problems during this time,” he explains. “For example, a rodent may have infiltrated the flue pipe and caused damage. For this reason, it’s best to turn on your furnace at least three times while the weather is still mild. That way, if there’s something wrong, you’ll find out early.”

Test your thermostat.

Besides testing your furnace, it’s a good idea to make sure your thermostat is working properly. If it’s not, Jake Newman Jr. of Burkell Plumbing, Inc. has a couple of troubleshooting tips for you. The first is simple: make sure the thermostat has batteries and verify they’re still good. While you’re at it, you should also see if there’s any corrosion on the battery contacts—if there is, clean it off using a cotton swab and white vinegar.

If batteries aren’t the issue, Mr. Newman gives another step for diagnosing the situation. “After removing your thermostat from the wall, take a gator clip or piece of insulated wire and insert the ends into the R and W terminals on the wall-mounted wiring panel,” he instructs. “HVAC technicians use this technique to ‘jumpstart’ a furnace when a thermostat is malfunctioning. If you’re able to turn on the heat this way, your problem is probably a malfunctioning thermostat. If you don’t get a response, the problem may be with the internal components of the furnace, in which case you’ll need to have an HVAC professional look into it.”

If your thermostat needs to be replaced, Brian Waskow of Hometown Heating & Air Conditioning recommends upgrading to a programmable model. “Not only can a programmable thermostat reduce your heating and cooling bills, it can simplify your daily routine and increase both comfort and convenience,” he explains. “The main benefit is it gives you more control of your HVAC system’s operation and allows you to create a customized heating and cooling schedule. You can set your system to turn on right before you get up in the morning, turn off after you leave for work and turn back on just before you return. That way, regardless of the time of day, your home’s temperature will already be at your desired setting when you need it.”

Change your air filter.

An HVAC system’s air filter (often referred to as a “furnace filter”) improves indoor air quality by capturing airborne particles and allergens like dust, dirt, and pet dander in the home. Over time, a furnace filter will get saturated with these captured particles and need to be replaced. According to Gabriel Martinez of Supreme Comfort HVAC, Inc., how often you should change your filter depends on several factors, including whether you have air conditioning. “If you only have heating, changing your air filter twice a year should suffice; however, if you have air conditioning as well, you should change it every three months because it’s doing twice as much work.” Other factors Mr. Martinez lists include the quality of the filter you’re using and whether you have pets that shed.


Regular inspections allow a technician to verify your furnace is operating safely and efficiently. Photo: Service Champions ©2021

Besides determining the proper replacement interval, it’s worthwhile to consider the quality of filter you’re using. “Some people think air filters are all the same, but that’s far from the case,” explains Tim Hassler Hassler Heating & Air Conditioning, Inc. “The reality is that standard, one-inch fiberglass filters do little to improve indoor air quality—they’re only good for filtering out very large airborne particles. To get better filtration, consider upgrading to a MERV 13 air filter. This four-inch pleated filter removes particles down to the level of viruses and bacterium, which makes it at least 60 times more effective than a standard filter.”

Have your furnace professionally maintained.

While independent maintenance is key to maximizing your furnace’s performance and life span, it’s also important to get routine professional maintenance. Annual maintenance appointments give your HVAC contractor an opportunity to inspect, test, and service your furnace and ensure it’s operating at peak safety and efficiency. According to Pat Martinez of West Coast Mechanical, a technician will complete the following tasks during a furnace maintenance appointment:

  • Check and tighten electrical connections
  • Test the unit to make sure the heat exchanger’s flame is burning properly/has the right color
  • Check the Delta T (the temperature difference between the return air and the supply air)
  • Make sure the blower is clean
  • Check for any airflow issues or dirty components

When having your furnace serviced, Armando Garcia of San Jose Heating & Cooling advises telling your technician about any furnace-related issues you may be experiencing. “Most homes have specific issues with airflow and temperature that are detrimental to comfort, and the only way to resolve them is to bring them up with your HVAC contractor.”

Mr. Garcia gives an example of how communication can lead to improved in-home comfort. “If one room in your home isn’t as well-insulated as the others, you might struggle to maintain your desired comfort level. By communicating about this to your HVAC contractor, you’ll give them an opportunity to look into a solution. For instance, they may be able to compensate for the lack of insulation by adjusting the airflow and velocity to that room. Additionally, they may recommend upgrading the insulation in that area to implement a better long-term solution.”

Use Diamond Certified Resource to find top rated companies.

Local, Top Rated Diamond Certified Companies Related to Your Topic
Marin County HVAC Contractors
San Francisco HVAC Contractors
Santa Clara County HVAC Contractors
Alameda County HVAC Contractors
Solano County HVAC Contractors  

Related Articles
The Homeowner's Guide to Heating and Cooling Your Home
Get Expert Advice From Owners of Top Rated Local Companies
Become a Diamond Certified Preferred Member (Always Free)