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Table of Contents

1. Turn On the Thermostat

2. Change the Air Filters

4. Clean the Heat Exchanger

5. Lubricate and Clean the Blower Motor

6. Test the Igniter Switch

7. Inspect the Chimney and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

8. If You Have an Oil-Powered Furnace, Replace Your Filter and Nozzle and Check the Tank Level

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8 Tips to Get Your Furnace Ready for Winter

7 min readUpdated Apr. 04, 2024Erin HynesHVAC
Get your furnace ready for winter

As the air turns crisp and leaves start to blanket the ground, it's a clear sign that winter is on its way. Now is the perfect time to focus on preparing your furnace for the chilly months ahead. A well-maintained heating system is key to ensuring your home remains a warm and cozy refuge from the cold. With our expert tips, you can check off all the necessary tasks to ensure your furnace is ready to operate smoothly and efficiently. Don't wait until the frost sets in; take steps now to ensure your heating system is in top condition. Have your furnace professionally maintained with Sears Home Services and enjoy reliable warmth all winter long.


  • Switching your thermostat to heat mode and ensuring all connections are secure is the first step to prepare your furnace for winter.
  • Regularly replacing air filters and ensuring the chimney and carbon monoxide detectors are functioning correctly are essential for maintaining indoor air quality and safety.
  • Oil-powered furnaces require specific maintenance, including filter and nozzle replacements, to run efficiently throughout the cold season.

School is in full swing, the leaves are changing color, and that pumpkin spice latte just isn’t enough to stave off the morning chill. It’s time to switch your HVAC system over to Heat. Check the following list to be sure your furnace is ready for the coming winter.

1. Turn On the Thermostat

Switch from cooling to heating and set the temperature a couple of degrees higher than the current room temperature. If you don’t hear the heat kick on within a minute, pull off the cover and make sure the wire connections are secure (if you feel comfortable doing so). If the connections are snug, make sure the power source to the HVAC system is turned on. If it’s still not working, you could check the furnace fan, blower, or heat pump — but it likely makes better sense to call in a professional.

  • Switch Modes: Change your thermostat from cooling to heating to start the process.
  • Adjust Temperature: Set it a few degrees above room temperature to test if the heat activates.
  • Check Connections: If there's no response, safely check for loose wire connections within the thermostat.
  • Verify Power: Ensure the HVAC system's power source is on, including any switches or breakers connected to it.
  • Consider Professional Help: For further issues, such as with the furnace fan or heat pump, consulting a professional is advisable for a safe and accurate resolution.

2. Change the Air Filters

You probably have air filters behind a vent grill in the wall or ceiling, or a single filter in the HVAC system itself. Change these filters every few months. Or, if you have a permanent electrostatic filter, you can wash and reuse it. Cleaning or replacing your filters regularly keeps particles out of your HVAC system and can prolong its life.

While you’re at it, change your humidifier filter and set the humidistat, if your HVAC includes a humidifier. This not only helps in maintaining the efficiency of your humidifier but also ensures that the air in your home maintains a comfortable level of humidity, reducing dry air issues during the heating season.

  1. Cover the AC Condenser

Unless your HVAC is a heat pump (in which case, don’t cover it at all because it runs all year), cover the condenser to protect it from falling icicles. “A large trash can lid secured with bungee cords works quite well for this function,” says David Kenyon, training manager for Sears Home Improvement. You can also use a board to cover the fan — but don’t wrap it in a moisture-trapping plastic tarp.

If you decide to use a cover for the condenser, opt for a breathable cover specifically designed for AC units instead of using a plastic tarp that can trap moisture. Such covers allow for proper air circulation, preventing the accumulation of moisture that could lead to rust and other issues. These purpose-made covers help ensure your unit remains protected without compromising its integrity due to trapped moisture or condensation.

4. Clean the Heat Exchanger

“The heat exchanger should be brushed and vacuumed out annually by a trained professional while the unit is disabled,” Kenyon says. While it’s being cleaned, a Sears technician will look for cracks, which could lead to a dangerous carbon monoxide leak into your home.

Regular maintenance of your heat exchanger not only ensures the efficiency and longevity of your heating system but also safeguards your home against the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning. A thorough inspection by a Sears professional can detect any potential issues early on, preventing more significant problems down the line. This proactive approach to HVAC maintenance keeps your system running smoothly and your indoor air quality high, giving you peace of mind throughout the colder months.

5. Lubricate and Clean the Blower Motor

First, check the owner’s manual to see if your motor is the kind that needs lubricating. If it does, turn off the power, open the cover, and clean the caps covering the bearings. Then remove the caps and lubricate the bearings.

While lubricating and cleaning the blower motor can be a DIY task for those familiar with HVAC systems, having a technician perform this as part of routine maintenance is recommended. A professional has the expertise to correctly determine if lubrication is needed and to carry out the task effectively, ensuring all safety measures are observed. Opting for a technician to handle this maintenance ensures the job is done accurately and extends the lifespan and efficiency of your HVAC system, providing optimal home comfort.

6. Test the Igniter Switch

On an old system, you might have to relight the pilot. Newer systems have electronic igniters. If the igniter isn’t working, push the reset button. If that doesn’t do the trick, check your breaker. Still not working? Call in a professional.

Ensuring your heating system's igniter is functioning correctly is crucial for starting the furnace efficiently and safely. For those with older systems, knowing how to manually relight the pilot light is valuable. However, with the advancement of technology in newer systems, troubleshooting involves checking the electronic igniter and potentially resetting the system. If these steps fail to resolve the issue, the problem may be more complex, and seeking the expertise of a professional is advisable. A trained technician can diagnose and repair the issue, ensuring your system operates reliably and safely throughout the colder months. Regular maintenance checks can also prevent such problems from arising, keeping your heating system in optimal condition.

7. Inspect the Chimney and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Chimneys can house carbon buildup or even small animals. “A professional should inspect them periodically,” Kenyon says. Routinely test or replace carbon monoxide detectors as well, as they help protect you from the “silent killer.”

The inspection of your chimney is a critical safety measure to ensure there's no blockage or buildup that could lead to dangerous situations, such as a fire hazard or carbon monoxide intrusion into your home. Hiring a professional for a thorough chimney inspection can identify and fix such issues before they become serious. Equally important is the maintenance of carbon monoxide detectors. These devices are essential for detecting and warning of the presence of carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas that can be lethal. Testing your detectors regularly and replacing them according to the manufacturer's recommendations or whenever they fail to function ensures your home remains a safe environment for you and your family.

8. If You Have an Oil-Powered Furnace, Replace Your Filter and Nozzle and Check the Tank Level

“Unlike gas-fired systems, oil units require oil filter changes, burner nozzle cleaning, and a pretty thorough heat-exchanger brushing to keep them running efficiently since oil doesn't burn as cleanly as gas,” Kenyon says.

Maintaining an oil-powered furnace involves specific tasks to ensure it operates efficiently and safely. Regularly replacing the oil filter and cleaning or replacing the burner nozzle are essential to prevent clogging and ensure optimal combustion. Additionally, a thorough cleaning of the heat exchanger is crucial due to the less clean burn of oil compared to gas, which can lead to soot buildup and reduced efficiency. Monitoring and maintaining the correct oil tank level is also vital to ensure your furnace has a consistent fuel supply throughout the heating season. These maintenance steps, crucial for the longevity and efficiency of oil-powered furnaces, underscore the importance of routine checks and professional servicing to keep your heating system in prime condition.

Ready to ensure your furnace is prepared to keep you warm all winter long? Don’t let furnace maintenance tasks overwhelm you. Sears Home Services offers professional HVAC maintenance, ensuring your system operates efficiently and safely. With our expert technicians on the job, you can rest easy knowing your heating system is in capable hands. Schedule your routine furnace maintenance with Sears Home Services today and experience the peace of mind that comes with a well-maintained furnace. Your warm and safe winter starts with a call to the pros.

Schedule your HVAC maintenance now!

HVAC checkups from Sears Home Services help keep your heating and cooling system running at its best. Prevent costly repairs and can make your HVAC system more energy efficient with routine maintenance.

Call (213) 596-2538 or schedule online now.

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