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Getting Your Heating System Ready For Winter

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The last thing any homeowner wants to deal with during a cold spell is a malfunctioning heating system. Not only can this problem leave your family shivering during cold winter nights, it can also be dangerous in some circumstances. Here is a look at some maintenance tasks that can help keep your heating system running smoothly all winter long.

Calibrate Thermostat

Test your thermostat to make certain it is calibrated properly. If a thermostat does not have proper calibration, it can show a higher temperature than the furnace is actually producing.

To test the thermostat, tape a thermometer on the wall several inches from the thermostat. Do not allow the two to touch each other. After 15 minutes, check the thermometer to see if it matches the temperature on the thermostat. If it does not, it's time to calibrate your thermostat.

Take off the thermostat cover to begin the calibration procedure. The first step is to clean off any dirt and dust on the inside of the device; a good way to do this is with a dollar bill. Remove the dirt and dust carefully to ensure that no wiring or components are damaged.

The final step depends on what type thermostat you have. If you have one with a calibration screw, turn the screw with a screwdriver until the contacts open. The wait a few moments and turn them again until the contacts are closed. If you have a model that uses a mercury switch, then ensure that mercury is completely level. If it is not level, the thermostat will not function properly.

After calibrating, test the thermostat again. If the problem is not solved, you may need a new thermostat.


Your furnace has an air filter that keeps dust and grime from entering your ductwork and ventilation systems. If this filter becomes clogged, your furnace will have to work harder to keep your house warm. In some instances, this could cause the furnace to malfunction. To prevent this problem, change your furnace filter at least once every three months at minimum; in some situations, once a month is an even better idea.

If you have a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide detector, test these devices before the winter starts and continue to test them each month. You do not want to surprised by a malfunction heating system producing smoke or emitting dangerous carbon dioxide.

Don't overlook these key maintenance tasks, as they might be the difference between your heating system functioning properly or causing you problems. If you do not feel comfortable doing any of these jobs on your own, contact an HVAC maintenance professional in your city.