When you think of winter, you hopefully imagine a cozy evening curled up by the fire. But every now and then winter decides not to go along with our plans, and we're left shivering in our own homes. You won't always be able to keep a blizzard from showing up, but you can prevent your furnace and other HVAC equipment from being poorly equipped for winter. Nobody wants or deserves a faulty furnace, which is why we prepared this checklist for getting your HVAC system prepped for winter.

Five Ways to Prepare Your HVAC for a Cold Winter

1. Cover up Your Outdoor Unit and Clean the Space Nearby

Since most HVAC systems have an outdoor condenser unit to discharge heat, you'll want to ensure that the area close to the unit itself is clean of any yard debris. Clean 5 feet of space or so from any plants or sticks. It's also a good idea to make sure it's protected by a bit of tarp or similar material during the winter. This keeps ice and other debris from getting inside the condenser.

2. Wash or Replace the Air Filter

Always inspect and clean out your air filter, customarily found in your furnace's indoor air handler. Dust, pollen, animal dander and many other contaminants can slowly accumulate in the air filter. If it goes unchecked, your HVAC system can lose efficiency and possibly even become a fire hazard. A fresh air filter allows air to flow more freely, maintaining sufficient ventilation and helping keep indoor air quality higher. To enjoy the most benefit from the filter, make sure to clean or change it every few months or based on manufacturer instructions.

3. Clean the Blower

The blower is crucial to your Lennox furnace, and as an essential component it can collect a lot of wear and tear. Cleaning it once in a while will help it continue working at its best. Vacuum the area around the blower and rub the blades with a microfiber cloth for more efficient airflow. If you hear any unusual noises or aren't getting any circulation from the vents, call a professional technician to check out your blower.

4. Check for Gaps or Dents in Your Furnace

Make sure that your furnace is free of visible damage on the inside or outside units. A hole in the air handler or a large dent in the condenser unit outside could worsen all manners of comfort problems, like heat leaking out before it moves into your ductwork. If there is significant damage, consult your local technician at Ohler & Holzhauer Inc. about examining the system before the temperatures start falling. This way you can avoid letting a minor crack in the system grow into a major problem.

5. Test Your Equipment Before It Gets Too Cold

It's always smart to make sure your HVAC system is working properly before the middle of winter. Otherwise, your HVAC system may be unequipped for the first true drop in temperatures. Performing a test run of your furnace can provide the opportunity to notice potential problems right away, while they're still simpler to solve. This also burns away any dust that might have piled up in the air ducts beforehand, eliminating that burnt smell. Once your furnace is in working order, you can sled away from any HVAC worries.

A Well-Prepared Furnace Is a Great Way to Welcome Winter

Winter weather should be heading this way before you know it. If you take the time to get your furnace ready in advance, you can spend the rest of the season enjoying the holidays, drinking hot cocoa or hanging out with your family inside a warm, cozy home. Don't forget to follow the tips above to get your home prepared for next winter!