How to Identify Common Furnace Problems & Prepare Your HVAC For Cold Weather

When the temperature and the leaves start dropping, you’ll start thinking about your furnace for the first time since last winter. At Lozier Heating & Cooling, our goal is to make sure you stay warm and comfortable in your home, no matter how cold it gets outside. Whether you need a seasonal furnace tune-up or a brand new furnace installation, we’re here for you.

As Des Moines HVAC experts, we’re sharing everything you’d ever need to know about furnaces and other home heating solutions — from helpful heating terminology and furnace troubleshooting insights to a comprehensive guide for getting your home ready for winter. Jump straight to the topic you’re interested in or read through each topic below.

Furnace and Heating Topics

How do I prepare my heating for winter?: 7 Tips for Staying Cozy in the Cold

Whether winter is approaching or you’re just looking to catch up on offseason HVAC maintenance tasks, take a look at our heating preparation checklist. We have tips for making your house more efficient and more comfortable, and we’re sharing how to cut energy costs in winter.

1. Fix Duct Leaks to Improve Heating Efficiency

No matter how efficient your furnace is, you’re going to have issues if your air ducts are leaking. Don’t overlook your air ducts as you prepare your HVAC system for colder weather. Especially if you live in an older home, the seals on your air ducts will be aging and possibly deteriorating. Aging duct seals can cause uneven heating in your home, along with increased energy bills due to inefficiency.

The HVAC experts at Lozier Heating & Cooling use a few different professional duct sealing methods to make sure you’re comfortable in your home throughout the winter. If you suspect you have leaky ducts in your home, reach out to a Lozier representative to schedule an appointment.

2. Inspect Your Insulation and Trap Hot Air Inside

If you’ve checked your ducts and you’re looking for other ways to cut energy costs in winter, inspect your insulation. Not only does hot air escape through leaky ductwork — it also escapes through inadequate insulation. Review the best places to insulate your home, and pay special attention to your attic, basement and exterior walls. A large percent of energy loss occurs through the roof and walls in the average home, so it’s important to make sure those areas are properly insulated.

3. Weatherize Your Windows to Prevent Heat Loss in Your Home

Learning how to weatherize windows properly is another way to increase efficiency and cut energy costs in winter. Weatherizing your windows provides multiple benefits in addition to keeping your utility bills more manageable. This inexpensive task can significantly reduce outside noise, improve air quality and make your home more comfortable during cold weather.

Weatherizing your windows is a project you could easily complete in a weekend! Read our guide to learn more about how to weatherize windows using caulk and other inexpensive materials.

4. Optimize or Upgrade Your Thermostat to Maximize Furnace Efficiency

Adjusting your thermostat for winter is another great tactic to choose when you’re trying to decide out how to cut energy costs in winter months. For optimal comfort, we recommend setting the temperature to 68-70 degrees while you’re at home during the day. At night, you can lower the temperature slightly — 62-66 degrees is sufficient while you’re sleeping. You could go lower if you add extra blankets to your bed!

You can further optimize your thermostat in winter if you upgrade to a programmable Wi-Fi thermostat. If you use a smart thermostat, you’ll be able to create schedules and programs for your HVAC system, enabling greater control and increased cost savings. You can set your programmable thermostat to turn the heating down during times no one is home — there’s no need to heat an empty house! You can even set the thermostat to start warming the house up shortly before you come home so that it’s cozy when you arrive.

5. Use a Smart HVAC Zoning System for Increased HVAC Control

If you implement a smart zoning system along with your programmable Wi-Fi thermostat, you’ll have maximum control over your home heating efficiency and optimization. HVAC zoning enables you to use different thermostat settings in different areas of your home. This means you can heat the areas where you spend the most time, such as living spaces and bedrooms, while avoiding wasting heat on spare rooms or other spaces you don’t use regularly.

Is HVAC zoning worth it?

HVAC Zoning is especially helpful if your home has unique heating challenges. If your home has multiple stories or you have guest rooms or spare rooms you don't often use, it may be difficult to keep your home comfortable with a traditional HVAC system.

Learn more about how to zone your HVAC system, and reach out to an HVAC specialist for more information about whether a zoning system might be a worthwhile upgrade for your home.

6. Clean Your Furnace to Prevent Common Furnace Problems

A little bit of DIY furnace maintenance and cleaning can go a long way when you’re getting your HVAC system ready for winter. Although we recommend hiring a heating and cooling expert to give your furnace a tune-up every year, there are some things you can do yourself to keep your heating system in good working order and cut energy costs in winter.

How do I clean my furnace?

You can clean furnace ducts and vents with a vacuum. Vacuuming vents removes dust and dirt and improves airflow and efficiency. Replacing dirty filters is another important furnace cleaning task. After cleaning your furnace, hire an HVAC professional for further cleaning and maintenance tasks.

View our resources to learn more about how to clean your furnace for winter. We have DIY resources available, but you can always reach out to us to have a technician come out to perform a furnace check-up before winter weather hits your area.

7. Schedule a Furnace Check-up Before Winter

Our final tip for preparing your HVAC system for winter is to schedule a furnace check-up before winter arrives. Having a professional furnace inspection provides peace of mind, and furnace technicians can often spot issues homeowners might miss. Send an appointment request online, text us at (515) 393-4262, or call us 515-267-1000, and a technician will help you schedule a furnace tune-up appointment.

3 Common Furnace Problems and How to Handle Them

No amount of preventative maintenance and furnace inspections can prevent occasional furnace issues from popping up. Understanding common HVAC issues will help you determine what course of action to take to get things in good working order. For help diagnosing common furnace problems, check out this list:

1. HVAC Smells Musty

If the air running through your HVAC smells musty, check your filter. An old, dirty furnace filter can lead to air that smells musty or dusty. Different filters may have different recommendations for how often you should change your furnace filter, but many common household furnace filters should be changed at least once every 3 months. If you have pets, you may need to change your furnace filter more often.

When your furnace smells funny, the underlying reason may not be obvious. After checking your furnace filter, contact a heating and cooling contractor. A professional HVAC tech will be able to provide more insights about bad furnace odors and how to get rid of them.

2. Burning Smell From Furnace

When you notice a burning smell coming from your furnace, it’s often a sign of a more serious furnace problem. Burning smells from a furnace are often a symptom of an overheated furnace motor, and an overheated motor can quickly become an electrical hazard if it goes unaddressed. If you notice a burning smell coming from your furnace, turn off your heating and contact an HVAC professional right away.

3. Furnace Not Working

Some homeowners are able to diagnose the issue themselves when their furnace smells funny, but it’s more difficult to figure out what’s wrong if your furnace won’t turn on at all. There are a few troubleshooting tasks you can try when you discover your furnace not working, but you’ll likely need an HVAC technician to inspect your unit and perform repairs.

What do I do if my furnace isn’t working?

If you have an older furnace, check your pilot light. If it is out, you may be dealing with an ignition system malfunction. Other reasons for a furnace not working include a blocked or frozen intake pipe, broken blower motor or faulty condensate pump.

If your furnace isn’t working, contact a heating and cooling company. Some common furnace problems have easy DIY fixes, but other issues can be complicated and even dangerous to try to fix on your own. Contact Lozier if your furnace is not working, and we’ll schedule a time for a technician to diagnose and repair your heater.

How to Buy a New Furnace: Choosing the Right HVAC System For Your Home

A typical furnace lasts 15-20 years when properly maintained. If your furnace is getting older or you’re having consistent issues, it’s time to start shopping for a new furnace. Repair costs for aging HVAC systems can add up over the years, and investing in a brand new furnace could be a more cost-effective alternative to pricey upkeep costs.

When you’re ready to start shopping for a new furnace, consider these two important factors:

1. Furnace Size: What Size Furnace Do I Need?

As you research furnaces, be sure to ask HVAC dealers: “What size furnace do I need?” Their answer will provide insight not only about their expertise, but also their ethics. Some heating and cooling companies will try to sell you the biggest, most expensive furnace they offer, but beware — dealing with an oversized furnace could cause headaches down the road.

At Lozier, our HVAC technicians use a Manual J Load Calculation to determine the right furnace size for your home or business. This calculation considers factors such as square footage, insulation type and quality, door and window placement, orientation of the property and more. Using this method, we can easily recommend the right size furnace to maximize efficiency while keeping the space comfortable.

2. Furnace Type: What Type of Furnace Do I Need?

As you determine the correct furnace size for your home, you can also explore different types of furnaces and heating systems to see what works best for you. There are benefits and drawbacks to each type of home heating solution, so do your research thoroughly.

Some homeowners use a modulating furnace to heat their home. Modulating furnaces increase efficiency by operating at full capacity or partial capacity depending on your home’s heating needs. Single-stage furnaces are always either on or off. Variable capacity furnaces have intermediate levels, enabling energy savings and maximizing efficient use of fuel.

Lozier also offers alternative home comfort options, including solar-ready heat pumps. Solar-ready systems can connect to traditional grid power or they can be powered using electricity from solar panels. Learn more about solar-ready HVAC systems.

Fireplaces, Garage Heaters and Other Home Heating Solutions

Not all houses use a traditional furnace system for home heating, and many people supplement their furnace use with other heating methods when it gets cold outside. We want to briefly discuss some common home heating solutions and personal heating devices you may want to use to stay warm in your home this winter.

Fireplace Tips: How to Make Sure Your Fireplace is Safe

There’s nothing cozier than a fireplace on a cold winter evening. If your home has a gas, electric or wood burning fireplace, be sure to take necessary steps to make sure your fireplace is safe to use. We’re answering a few of the most common fireplace safety questions so that you can enjoy your fireplace with greater peace of mind:

Are fireplaces safe?

Indoor fireplaces are safe to use as long as they are properly maintained and sufficiently ventilated. Always do a visual inspection of your chimney and fireplace before you use it, and hire a professional chimney sweep to perform annual seasonal cleaning and maintenance tasks.

Are electric fireplaces safe?

Electric fireplaces present fewer potential safety concerns when compared to gas or wood burning fireplaces. Because there is nothing actually burning in an electric fireplace, they produce no smoke or fumes. They also present a much lower fire hazard because they don't produce sparks.

How do I close a fireplace flue?

In order to close your wood burning fireplace’s flue, you'll need to find either a set of pull chains or a lever inside the interior front wall of the fireplace. Use these mechanisms to control the position of both the fireplace flue and damper.

For more information on how to close a fireplace flue, read our detailed chimney flue guide.

Garage Heaters: Options for Outdoor Heating

When it comes to heating garages, mobile homes and other small spaces, there are a lot of options available. Garage heaters are becoming more popular as people want to have a space to work on projects throughout the winter months. If you choose a safe garage heater and use it properly, you’ll be able to comfortably enjoy using your garage during winter.

Mobile Home Heaters and Mini-Split Systems

Because they have less square footage and don’t need a full central heating and cooling system, full-sized HVAC equipment is not the best heating option for a mobile home. Mobile homes typically have special heating and cooling equipment designed to help occupants control the temperature without overdoing it in the smaller space.

When full HVAC installation doesn’t work or doesn’t make sense for the space, a mini-split system might be the best solution. Mini-split systems are small and quiet, and they are the perfect size to heat or cool spaces that are difficult to heat or cool with a conventional HVAC system. Lozier offers a few different mini-split options, so you can choose what will work best for your space and your budget.

Electric Blankets, Space Heaters and More Home Heating Devices

As temperatures drop, many people start shopping for warm slippers, sweaters, blankets, space heaters and more. If you prefer setting your thermostat lower in the winter to save money on your energy bills, you’ll want a full arsenal of cozy options for staying warm in your home. Make sure you know how to safely use space heaters and personal heating devices to reduce fire risk in your home.

Contact Lozier Local HVAC Experts for All Your Furnace Needs

You may not think about your furnace until you have an issue. Lozier HVAC technicians are well-versed in a variety of common furnace problems, and we’re ready to tackle anything that comes up.

If you have any questions or concerns about your furnace, reach out to our team. Schedule an appointment online, or send us a text at (515) 393-4262. We also have an emergency phone number for urgent issues that occur outside of regular business hours: (515) 267-1000.