heating cooling system tips

Considering the complex nature of heating and cooling systems, it’s beneficial to know some maintenance basics. Photo: Innovative Mechanical, Inc. (2015)

Temperature regulation and air quality are key concerns in any indoor environment, which is why, in addition to keeping your home’s heating and cooling systems functional, you’ll want them working as efficiently as possible. We’ve asked five Diamond Certified Expert Contributors to share their tips on basic HVAC maintenance and troubleshooting.


1. Know the location of your furnace filter: Kim Haddon of Haddon Heating & Cooling

While routine furnace filter replacement is often neglected, for some, the problem starts with locating the filter in the first place. If you don’t know where your furnace filter is, there are a few common places to check, including the furnace blower compartment, an external compartment of the furnace, or a return air grill in either the ceiling or a nearby wall.


2. Find a furnace filter that meets your needs: Al Morando of Innovative Mechanical, Inc.

Many consumers assume all furnace filters are basically the same, but in reality, filters vary greatly in terms of efficiency, from a 7 to 10 percent efficient standard filter to a high-efficiency filter that catches 97 percent of airborne particles and contaminants. While the latter is more expensive, for those suffering from allergies, asthma and other air quality-related conditions, it can be a worthwhile investment. Before purchasing a high-efficiency filter, however, you should consult a licensed HVAC professional to make sure it’s compatible with your particular furnace system.


HVAC air filter

In addition to replacing your furnace filter at regular intervals, be sure to choose one that provides a requisite amount of filtration. Photo: Moore Heating & Air Conditioning (2015)


3. Don’t close too many heater vents: Kent Penning of Cold Craft, Inc.

In an effort to minimize winter heating costs, some people employ the strategy of closing air vents in unoccupied rooms throughout their homes. While this can potentially save money, it can also cause the furnace to overheat and trigger its automatic shutoff, requiring a professional service call. To avoid this, be sure to leave at least 60 percent of your home’s air vents open at all times.


heater floor vent

While strategically closing air vents throughout your home can reduce your heating bill, it can also result in a potentially costly situation. Photo: Hometown Heating & Air Conditioning (2015)


4. Test heating and cooling systems before they’re needed: Brian Waskow of Hometown Heating & Air Conditioning

It’s better to find out that your air conditioner needs servicing in the spring than on a hot summer day. For this reason, prior to summer, it’s a good idea to turn on your air conditioner and let it run so you can test your thermostat and make sure the air is coming out cold in all the vents. You should also perform a similar test of your heater before winter. By being proactive about testing, you can take care of any issues before these systems are needed.


a/c units

Image 4: Testing your air conditioning system in spring will allow you to address any performance problems before the summer weather sets in. Photo: Innovative Mechanical, Inc. (2015)


5. Troubleshoot your air conditioner before calling a professional: Michael Zieglar of Valley Heating, Cooling and Electrical

If your air conditioning system doesn’t seem to be operating at full capacity, take a moment to do some troubleshooting before calling a professional. One possibility is that you’ve simply forgotten to set the thermostat to the “cool” setting or to a sufficiently low temperature. Another contributing factor is if components like the filter or evaporator coil are dirty or clogged, in which case you should clean them and see if it makes a noticeable improvement.

To learn more about HVAC and other topics, visit our Diamond Certified Expert Reports at experts.diamondcertified.org.

49 Responses

  1. Caleb Hart says:

    My furnace just went out last weekend. I’m not sure what caused the problem cause it’s really old. I didn’t know that closing the vents could cause the furnace to overheat. I have a lot of closed vents in my house right now so maybe that’s what caused it.

  2. james harvon says:

    This will be beneficial to us as we prepare for summer. I am excited to get my unit up to capacity. We are expecting a hot summer. Testing the system should give us an idea of the unit’s current condition.

  3. DoloresB says:

    I think it would also be good to clean filters or at least change them regularly. That should help your heating system work better for longer. Along with that it’s good to test your system regularly so you can find problems early and solve them when it’s pretty cheap.

  4. I heard that it’s possible to test your HVAC yourself, but I’m not sure how to do it. Now I can see that letting my A/C and heater run to test my thermostat is a good way to do it. I’ll be sure to use that method to test my HVAC from now on. Thanks for the tips!

  5. Delores Lyon says:

    Thanks for sharing this advice on taking care of your heating and cooling system. I think it is really awesome that you can change your own furnace filter to keep it in good condition. In fact, I think I am going to start replacing the furnace filter on my own as well. I just have to find it first!

  6. Johnny says:

    I didn’t realize that closing the heater vents could lead to the heater overheating. That wouldn’t be a fun thing to deal with yet, I find myself closing the vents all the time. I imagine it cannot be to good for the filter either. Thanks for sharing.

  7. It’s kinda funny how often your 5th point actually happens, but my wife is guilty of doing that all the time. She will tell me that the AC is not producing any cold air, and then I will take one look at it, and see that it is not set to cool! That’s a great tip though, to check things out yourself before troubling others to come and check out an easy fix.

  8. Callie Marie says:

    I am definitely one of those people you mention in tip #3. Some times I only have the two vents open in the living room in an effort to stay warm and cut costs in the winter! I had no idea that it could overheat my furnace. Thanks for the warning, I will be sure to leave at least 60% of the vents open from now on.

  9. Rose Henderson says:

    I don’t know why people close off so many of the vents to begin with. It kind of ruins the airflow in your house. I could understand maybe one of them or two, but that’s it. I’m glad you brought up that point because it kind of irritates me when my husband closes all the vents in our house.

    • Justin Milrad says:

      The interesting thing is, Rose, that a lot of people do close their vents. Personally, only a small number of my acquaintances leave the vents open. Come up with certain strategies for leaving the vents open and closed throughout the home. Find that balance that you both can live with, but also ensuring your furnace doesn’t overwork itself. If anything, have your husband take a look at the tips provided, that way no issues affect your home and prevent you both from having a hole in your wallet due to repairs.

  10. Caleb Hart says:

    I have a furnace right now, and it’s giving me quite a bit of trouble. It’s July, so I’m not running it, but it’s still being annoying. I agree that I should find a furnace filter that is right for it. If I would have done that before, I’m sure I wouldn’t have had the problems I do now.

  11. Charlotte Eddington says:

    Your comment about finding a furnace filter that meets your needs, is great. I have severe asthma and allergies, so I am constantly looking for ways to make the air in my home cleaner. I will keep this information in mind. Thanks for sharing your tips and comments.

  12. Seth Ashford says:

    Thanks for sharing this advice on taking care of your heating and cooling system. I had no idea that you had to make a decision when getting a furnace filter. I just thought there would be one type of furnace filter for the unit that you have. It sounds like I better do some research on my HVAC unit so that I can get the best filter possible for it. Thanks again for sharing!

  13. Steve Holt says:

    You made some really interesting points about how closing too many heater vents can affect the energy efficiency in my home. Like many other people, I sometimes close a few heater vents in the rooms that aren’t commonly used to help save money on my heating bill. You mentioned that closing too many heater vents could cause my furnace to overheat and be automatically shut off. That would explain why my heater kept shutting off last winter. I guess that means that I should keep a few vents open for the sake of my heater.

  14. Susan Hirst says:

    I really appreciate you sharing this information. HVAC systems are something a lot of people don’t really think about, but are important for our every day comfort. Tip number four was very helpful to me. I’ll be sure to test my heating and cooling systems before they are needed.

  15. Olivia Gilman says:

    Like Steve, I was interested in your suggestion, in tip #3, that blocking off heater vents can cause the heater to overheat. I always close heating vents in areas or rooms that I don’t think are needed. I wasn’t aware that this could do damage to the heater. Is there a way to close off some of them while not doing damage? What other factors influence how it damages the equipment?

  16. Fred Summers says:

    Thanks for the tip about the heating vents. I didn’t realize that closing too many of them would be bad. I’ll have to look at it again and make sure that I have more of them open.

  17. Virginia Davis says:

    Thanks for the tips for maintaining your heating and cooling systems. I didn’t know that closing too many heating vents could cause your furnace to overheat. I tend to close many of the vents in my home during the winter. I will be sure to keep at least 60 percent of them open from now on, though, like you recommended.

  18. Jessy Shaw says:

    I had absolutely no idea that closing too many of your heating vents can cause an automatic shutoff. I have read many times that closing them can save you money but not that it could have that potential effect. I am thinking that this is what has happened to our heating unit so I will have to call in a service as soon as possible. Thank you for the information!

  19. Chase Wilson says:

    I love Step 1: Know where it is. To be honest though, probably not enough people know where that is. I’ll be honest, I don’t. However, I probably should because our furnace power output has gone down significantly since the drywall guys came. It’s probably just a bunch of dust, but I am not sure. Do you have any idea what could be causing that?

  20. Rhys Rawson says:

    Thanks for sharing these heating system tips. I’m definitely guilty of closing heating vents in unoccupied rooms. I’ll be sure not to close too many as I don’t want my furnace to overheat. Great article!

  21. DoloresB says:

    Filters are really important for heating and cooling systems. You can clean them regularly or replace them. That way your system will keep running smoothly the whole year long.

  22. Betty Johnson says:

    That’s a good idea to know where your filter is. I’ve heard many times that maintaining the filter is an easy thing to do, but I keep forgetting to look into it. A clean filter means my HVAC system doesn’t have to work so hard, though. I should look into it.

  23. Natalie Darcy says:

    I have had issues with my heating in the past, and it makes winter rather miserable. This year, I want to be able to really enjoy the snowy months, so I am determined to take good care of my heater. I really appreciate you addressing all of the little parts that need to be watched in these types of systems. From now on, I will definitely be using your tips to take care of my furnace; thank you!

  24. Olivia Sherwin says:

    These are some great tips, and I appreciate your advice to not close too many heating vents. I’ve done this in the past, hoping to only heat the most used rooms to save money. I didn’t realize it could be bad for the furnace, and I’ll definitely make sure to keep at least sixty percent of them open from now on. Thanks for the great post!

  25. Veronica Marks says:

    I had no idea that closing too many vents could be harmful to the furnace! We definitely do that all the time because we live in a larger home but don’t use all the rooms all the time. I will have to tell my husband about this and stop closing so many vents!

  26. James Bay says:

    I recently installed a new filter on my furnace. I never knew shutting too many vents could be a bad thing. I will need to remember that. Thank you for your help.

  27. Jake White says:

    My wife and I just moved into a house together, and while we do have a HVAC contractor we can call upon if we need to, we still wanted to learn ways in which we can take care of our heating system better. I have been closing vents in rooms of the house that aren’t getting used as much, but after reading it sounds like it could potentially overheat the furnace. It makes perfect sense, but sometimes I just need to hear it from an expert in order to realize it. Thanks for sharing!

  28. Jason Strong says:

    My wife and I are trying to improve the heating in our home, but don’t really know how. What I didn’t realize is how it’s the little things like having a quality filter and keeping things away from the air vents that can help with this. I’ll have to go home and look at these make sure that we are doing them.

  29. Casey Jones says:

    Thanks James for the information on cooling and heating services! I had no idea that there was so much variety in air filters. Thanks for making me aware of that. I will be sure to check what kind of filter would be best for me.

  30. Drew says:

    I had no idea the dangers of closing too many vents when your heater is running. Thanks so much for sharing this info!

  31. Dean says:

    Great suggestions listed here. Also, making sure the AC unit outside is clear and free of debris and leaves often helps.

  32. Logan Murphy says:

    I had no idea that closing too many vents could cause the furnace to overheat. That is really good to know. We are about to have some furnace cleaning done so I thought it would be smart to look up some tips. Thanks for the advice on leaving at least 60% of our vents open at all time. We will definitely make sure to do that.

  33. Dave Ward says:

    Now that I think about it, I don’t think I know where my furnace filter is. That would be problematic if we wanted to replace or clean it. We will also have to make sure to check out our AC before it gets warm again. I do not want it to go out on me again.

  34. Ian Johanson says:

    Thanks for your post. I think that testing my air conditioner and heater before needing them is the best thing to do. I try to do it every year. However, sometimes the heater will die halfway through the season. This happened to me a couple of years ago and I had to replace the furnace. Would getting it serviced every year help solve this kind of problem?

  35. Kyle Ross says:

    These are some great tips, and I appreciate your advice to test your heating system before it’s required. I hadn’t considered that it would be more convenient to learn of any issues beforehand. I’ll definitely look into testing my system and calling in a professional to do any repairs that I need done before winter fully sets in. Thanks for the great post!

  36. Grace Turner says:

    I did not know that there were different types of filters. I’m so happy that there are high efficiency filters to help prevent problems with allergies or asthma. Now I know to ask a professional to see if the more efficient filter is compatible with a home before purchasing it. Thank you for the useful tip about furnace filters.

  37. Jim Conor says:

    I didn’t know that shutting too many heating vents during the winter could eventually cause the heater to shut off all together, that’s very important to note! We usually try to close a couple of them in rooms we’re not using, but I’ll have to double-check how many we actually close. It’ll end up costing a lot more in the long run if the heater has to keep turning itself on and off again in order to maintain the heat we want in the house.

  38. Lillian Schaeffer says:

    These are some great tips, and I appreciate your advice to consult a professional before getting a high efficiency filter for your HVAC system. I didn’t realize that investing in a better filter could make such a big difference! My daughter and I both suffer from allergies, so we’ll definitely look into getting a better one, but we’ll consult a professional first to see if it’s compatible with our system. Thanks for the great post!

  39. Tara Jones says:

    I didn’t know that there were different types of filters. We just found out that my daughter is allergic to dust, so we’re going to have to go on the hunt for some high-efficiency ones. We’ll definitely consult with some technicians to make sure that we’re buying the right kind. Will we need them to install them too, or can we do that on our own?

  40. Drew says:

    Good advice to not close too many heater vents. A few closed can help air flow but too many can cause issues for your furnace as you said. Thanks so much for the advice!

  41. Bob Lowe says:

    Thank you for the post. I had no idea that you could cause your furnace to over heat by closing the vents to save money. I am one of those that employ this type of strategy. Now that I know better, I will be sure to not let it happen again.

  42. Marie Watson says:

    Thanks for mentioning that it is better to test your heating and cooling systems before you actually need them. You make a good point about this ensuring that you can have any problems repaired before it is too hot or too cold. I would think that it could also be a good idea to have your heating and cooling system periodically inspected by a professional to make sure there are no damages and that it is running efficiently.

  43. Sarah Smith says:

    My husband and I are trying to find ways to improve the heating in our house. I had no idea that furnace filters are so important and that they should be changed often. I’ll have to see if I can find someone to come and help us figure out our furnace filter and to do an inspection.

  44. David Hawkins says:

    That’s really good advice to test your HVAC unit before you need it. I think it would be not fun at all to be in really hot or cold weather and not being able change the temperature in your home. I’ll have to hire a service and see if they can do an inspection for me. Thanks for the awesome info!

  45. Leesley says:

    We tend to run into this situation a lot with clients! People just don’t know that closing the vents could cause the furnace to overheat. I really enjoyed the article, thank you for sharing it. I will be sure to pass it on.

  46. john Mahoney says:

    I didn’t know that closing a lot of air vents in your house can affect the HVAC unit and potentially damage it. I can see how someone who wants to save in energy needs to keep this in mind, I wouldn’t want to have to spend money on repairs that could have been avoided. I will make sure to keep this in mind as I try to minimize the utility bill. Thank you.

  47. Yilliang Peng says:

    Thanks for the advice regarding my HVAC system. My wife usually calls the contractor right away when things are not working properly, but I will try to troubleshoot the problem from now on. I doubt that I will be able to fix the system myself; however, I think that I could relay some important information to speed up the process. Thanks again!

  48. Burt Silver says:

    Thanks for mentioning that you shouldn’t close vents in unused rooms during the winter. I thought that it would save energy, I didn’t realize it could make the furnace overheat! I have been trying to find ways to make sure I get more out of my heating and air system. I will definitely keep these tips in mind though!

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