Wednesday, September 22, 2021
Sept. 22, 2021

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Energy Adviser: Get heating ready for winter


In case you needed a reminder, last week’s rainy, chilly weather was there to tell you, the heating season is not far away.

Give your furnace, heat pump or other heating system whatever routine maintenance it needs before winter arrives.

“Your heating systems should be inspected and serviced at least once a year. Fall is an ideal time to schedule an appointment with your heating professional of choice, because most companies aren’t as busy as they will be when the colder weather arrives,” said DuWayne Dunham, Clark Public Utilities Energy Services Supervisor.

Like cars, heating and cooling systems need a little maintenance and tune up from time to time. Depending on your competence and confidence, some things can be done by the average homeowner, but, more often than not, it’s best to bring in an expert for an annual inspection.

If your home uses a zonal system, like baseboard or wall heaters, vacuum them out from time to time and make sure all the dust that’s accumulated is removed.

A professional will fix the obvious issues and catch irregularities before they become issues. Left unchecked, heating and cooling system problems will only grow worse. As the problem grows, the system will be less efficient and more expensive to operate.

You can make the most of your appointment by doing your own investigation before the technician arrives. Turn your heat pump or furnace on and listen carefully for any unusual noises or seemingly laborious effort. Feel the air coming out of the system. Does it feel humid, not especially warm, or varying in temperature from one cycle to the next? Is there an odor? If so, what does it smell like? Take note of all those things and share with the technician.

There are some things the average person can do. Fall is a great time of year to replace the air filter in your furnace, if you haven’t done so in a while. This year it might be an especially good idea to replace the filters a little earlier than usual, considering the intense wildfire smoke we experienced last month.

If you have a ductless heat pump, inspect the screens and filters on your head unit. They may need to be cleaned or replaced. Before buying one, consult your owner’s manual for guidance on the right size and micron level for your system. The market is filled with replacement options, but, filters are not, “one size fits all.”

A filter replacement can make a big difference in your home’s air quality and your heating system’s performance. A clogged filter inhibits airflow and reduces your system’s efficiency. In other words, it’ll cost more to get the same level of comfort you expect.

No matter the heating system, any work beyond a filter replacement is best left to the experts.

“Heating systems are built with complex and highly specific parts, which are surprisingly easy to damage and difficult to source,” Dunham said. “You don’t want to run the risk of winter coming earlier than expected and being without a working furnace.”

When you’re considering HVAC companies, ask them about annual service agreements. Many companies offer reduced rates in such plans, making them a good value for both the contractor and the customer.

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.