When you imagine winter, ideally you think of a cozy evening in your warm home. But sometimes winter doesn't want to go along with our plans, and we're left shivering in our own homes. You may not be able to stop a blizzard from rolling through, but you can prevent your heating from being ill prepared for winter. Nobody wants or deserves an unreliable furnace, which is why we made this checklist for getting your HVAC system prepared for winter.

Five Ways to Prepare Your HVAC for a Cold Winter

1. Cover Your Outdoor Unit and Clear the Space Near It

Since most HVAC systems have an outdoor condenser unit to release heat, you'll want to ensure that the area surrounding it is clear of any yard debris. Clear 5 feet of space or so from any plants or objects. It's also recommended to make sure it's protected by a piece of tarp or similar material through the winter. This keeps ice and other problems from getting inside the condenser.

2. Clean or Replace the Air Filter

Always inspect and clean out your air filter, normally located in your furnace's indoor air handler. Dust, pollen, animal dander and many other materials can slowly collect in the air filter. If it continues unchecked, your heating could lose efficiency and potentially even become a fire hazard. A clean air filter enables air to flow smoothly, maintaining good ventilation and helping keep indoor air quality healthy. To secure the most benefit from an air filter, make sure to clean or exchange it every couple of months or according to manufacturer instructions.

3. Clean the Blower

The blower is essential to your Lennox furnace, and as an integral component it can attract a lot of wear and tear. Cleaning it once in a while will help it continue working at its best. Vacuum the area next to the blower and brush the blades with a microfiber cloth for optimal airflow. If you notice any unusual noises or aren't getting any circulation from the vents, get a professional technician to check your blower.

4. Check for Gaps or Dents in Your Furnace

Make sure that your furnace has no visible damage on the inside or outside units. A hole in the air handler or damage to the condenser unit outside can worsen all kinds of comfort problems, including heat escaping before it moves into your ductwork. If there is significant damage, talk to your local technician at Childress Heating & AC about checking out the system before the temperatures begin to drop. This way you can avoid letting a minor flaw in the system turn into a major problem.

5. Test Your Equipment Before It Gets Too Cold

It's always wise to make sure your furnace is working properly before the middle of winter. If not, your heating could be unprepared for the first significant drop in temperatures. Conducting a test run of your heating can give you the opportunity to detect potential problems then and there, while they're still easier to solve. This also burns off any dust that might have gathered in the air ducts over the fall, removing that burnt smell. As soon as your furnace is in working condition, you can sled away from any HVAC worries.

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

Winter weather will be heading this way before you know it. If you spend some time to get your furnace prepared in advance, you can spend the all winter enjoying the holidays, drinking hot cocoa or spending time with your family inside a warm, cozy home. Remember to follow the tips above to get your home prepared for next winter!