How to Prepare Your Home's Heating Systems for Winter

By Nancy B
December 04, 2023

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We've had some cold nights but don't commit to the flannel sheets yet. Virginia's weather can be fickle this time of year! According to NOAA, we should get used to this mixed bag of weather as La Niña climate patterns develop. Virginians have an equal chance of above, near, or below-normal precipitation this winter. Past La Niña winters have brought warmer-than-average temperatures for the commonwealth but precipitation can vary greatly. 

Rain, sleet, snow, rain; we're talking bouts of unseasonably warm days followed by dives into colder temperatures and all the precipitation in between. With all this uncertainty, one thing is certain: colder weather is coming. And whenever you feel chilled this winter, you'll want your home's furnace to hum happily. Spending a little time and money now and save a bundle later!

How to prepare your home’s heating system for winter

Winterization for furnaces, heat pumps, or any heating system

You wouldn’t leave for your Thanksgiving travel without checking your car engine’s oil or the air pressure in the tires, right? Right! So it’s definitely a good time to get your furnace ready for its winter journey. Here are the 4 simple ways to prepare:

1. Have an annual inspection by an HVAC professional.




HVAC systems are complex and require a trained pro to get them running right. Heating professionals check things like coils, pressure and airflow, burners, and your heat exchanger. Dealing with a system failure is not pleasant when it’s freezing outside, not to mention it could damage other home systems. Let’s do it right!

Do you have oil-based heat? Here’s a solid information source for oil-based heat maintenance


Clean and Dirty Filters side by side

2. Change or clean your air filters

Don’t wait until you hear that terrible sound of heat ducts popping in and out when the heat turns on and off. It's best to replace air filters monthly. If you’re unsure if you’ve gotten your money’s worth from your existing filters, here’s a better measure. Buy new filters and compare them to the old ones in front of bright light. If you can’t see the light filtering through the old filters, replace them.


3. Clear leaves and debris from around your exterior HVAC unit

Remove any vegetation, leaves, and mulch from around your outdoor heat pump. For an HVAC system to run as smoothly as possible, air should be able to flow unimpeded through the condenser. 



4. Clean your duct vent inlets

Your home's duct vent inlets are intaking or distributing air into your cooling and heating system any time your air or house fan is running. The largest vent is usually your return duct and can get pretty dirty. This is a good reason to replace filters frequently and clean your return vents from time to time.  You most likely have smaller vents in your floor or ceiling that blow heated or cooled air into your rooms. Those can use good vacuuming at the same time. 

How to clean heater vents

This is a job tackled simply with your vacuum’s brush attachment tool. That annual inspection professional should inspect the inner ductwork for cleanliness, insulation, and tight connections. You may opt to have your ducts professionally cleaned. 


5. Reverse your ceiling fans

You may think your fans should go into hibernation over the winter. But you can give your furnace a little help this winter by recirculating the naturally rising warm air trapped at your ceiling. Reversing your ceiling fan forces warm air down and helps distribute it throughout the room. 

How to reverse your ceiling fan

Once your heat is running consistently, find the small black switch on the motor housing of your ceiling fan to change the spin direction to clockwise.



If you rely on a fireplace, wood stove, or other supplemental heat sources in your home- we’ve got those covered too. It's essential to take extra care with those alternative heating helpers to protect against the #1 winter threat to your home: fire. That way your home and family stay comfortable and safe all winter long.


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