When you imagine winter, ideally you think about 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 prevent a blizzard from blowing through, but you can prevent your heating from being unprepared for winter. Nobody likes or deserves a faulty furnace, which is why we prepared this checklist for getting your HVAC system ready for winter.

Five Ways to Prepare Your HVAC for a Cold Winter

1. Cover Your Outdoor Unit and Clear the Space Nearby

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

2. Clean or Replace the Air Filter

Always inspect and clean out your air filter, usually found in your furnace's indoor air handler. Dust, pollen, animal dander and many other contaminants can steadily accumulate in the air filter. If it continues unchecked, your HVAC system can lose efficiency and possibly even become a fire hazard. A clear air filter enables air to flow more freely, sustaining sufficient ventilation and helping keep indoor air quality high. To secure the most benefit from your filter, make sure to clean or replace it every two or three months or based on manufacturer instructions.

3. Clean the Blower

The blower is vital to your Lennox furnace, and as an essential component it can collect a lot of wear and tear. Cleaning it on occasion will help maintain strong performance. Vacuum the area near the blower and rub the blades with a microfiber cloth for optimal airflow. If you notice any odd noises or can't get any circulation from the vents, hire a professional technician to check your blower.

4. Check for Gaps or Dents in Your Furnace

Make sure that your furnace doesn't have visible damage on the inside or outside units. A hole in the air handler or flaws in the condenser unit outside could worsen all sorts of comfort problems, such as heat escaping before it reaches your ductwork. If there is noticeable damage, talk to your local technician at Air Masters Heating & Cooling about examining the system before the temperatures start dropping. This way you can avoid letting a small flaw 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 heating or cooling is functioning properly before the middle of winter. If you don't, your furnace may be unprepared for the first real drop in temperatures. Doing a test run of your heating can offer you the chance to detect potential problems right away, while they're still simpler to resolve. This also eliminates any dust that may have accumulated in the air ducts during the fall, removing that burnt smell. Once your furnace is in working order, you can sled away from your HVAC worries.

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

Winter weather is going to be on the way before you know it. If you spend some time to get your furnace prepped in advance, you can spend the winter enjoying the holidays, sipping hot cocoa or relaxing with your family inside a warm, cozy home. Remember to follow the tips above to get your home prepared for next winter!