As the days turn crisper and shorter, it’s time to get ready for winter. One important thing to do at home is to prepare your HVAC system for the change of seasons. Even celebrities like John Travolta have had to deal with HVAC situations. Here are several maintenance tips that could reduce heating costs and avoid major repairs.

Get Smart

Consider using smart function features for your HVAC system this winter. The Family Handyman recommends installing a programmable thermostat to set your indoor temperature at a comfortable and affordable level. Certain controls can help to prevent excessive energy and heat usage and keep your bill fairly stable.

Schedule an Inspection

Getting a yearly HVAC inspection is a good way to catch small problems before they turn into major issues. It can help to prevent things from developing that might cause trouble down the road. You don’t want to have your furnace stop working on the coldest night of the year and schedule an emergency repair at night or over the weekend when rates are higher. Get a routine checkup before the cold weather arrives to ensure the system is working efficiently. Damaged or aging parts can be replaced along with a new furnace filter to keep your HVAC system in good condition.

Have the Ducts Cleaned

Although some homeowners try to vacuum out their home’s ductwork, it is difficult to reach deep into the ventilation system to reach all the accumulated dust and debris. An expert HVAC team or duct specialists can do the job with the proper equipment and even sanitize the ducts if you prefer. Clean the vent covers while the ducts are being vacuumed. You may be pleasantly surprised to find less dust and fewer insects in your home after the ductwork has been professionally cleaned.

Maintain the Outdoor AC Equipment

Check your outdoor AC system every month or two to avoid vegetation buildup. Kids’ toys or garden tools left near the unit may also inhibit the flow of air as part of the ventilation system. Remove or trim weeds, branches, and shrub growth several feet from the AC equipment to promote clear circulation.

Clean the Bathroom Vent Fan

Direct Energy recommends turning off the bathroom vent fans and removing the covers to clean them of dust or accumulated grime periodically. Replace the covers unless they are cracked or chipped, and if so, you may want to buy new ones.

Keep the Furnace Area Clutter-Free

During the cold months, some people bring in their paints and chemical solvents from the garage or shed and store them in the basement. Keep flammable substances far away from the furnace to reduce the risk of fire or an explosion. Remove clutter from the HVAC area in case a problem develops so the technician can easily access the area. Clean up any water or liquid spills to prevent slips and falls around the HVAC area of the basement.

Report Unusual Sounds or Smells

As you spend more time indoors with the coming of winter, take note of unusual sounds the HVAC system might make. Popping, grinding, or flaring sounds, along with any unfamiliar noises, should be reported to an HVAC technician for an explanation or an in-home evaluation. A burning smell may indicate a problem as well, so ask a professional what it might mean if you notice the odor in your home or if you see smoke.

Update Smoke Alarms and CO Detectors

Experts generally agree that you should replace the batteries in your home’s smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors twice a year, with autumn one of the recommended times. Smoke alarms and CO monitors should be installed on every level of your home, including near or in the bedrooms. Test them weekly to ensure they work correctly and replace any that do not work correctly or are chirping to indicate they are not going to last much longer.

Get your HVAC system winter-ready to keep your home cozy and safe.