Savvy homeowners know that with cool weather, comes a bit of preparation. A quick audit of your heating equipment can mean less wasted energy, a more comfortable home and lower energy bills.

Nearly half of all heating and cooling equipment in U.S. homes never performs to its advertised capacity and efficiency due to incorrect installation, according to U.S. government estimates. And if you have an older system that was built before current efficiency standards, you could be spending more than needed on heating your home.

If it’s time to replace your system, be sure to have it properly installed by an HVACR professional, certified by North American Technician Excellence (NATE), the nation’s largest nonprofit certification body for HVACR technicians. NATE-certified technicians are skilled professionals who have proven their knowledge in the HVACR industry by passing specialized certification tests.

“The NATE-certified techs who perform maintenance and repairs do a consistently great job. We never have any concerns if the job is done right,” says Rob Kirkpatrick, a longstanding customer of Thermal Services, a Nebraska-based contractor.

Beyond having an efficient heating system properly installed, you can prepare for the season in the following ways:

• Clean heating filters. Check them every couple of weeks and change them at least twice in the season, or as directed by the manufacturer.

• Check and maintain insulation. Improperly insulated walls, floors, attics, basements and crawlspaces drain away heat and can also lead to moisture imbalance. Adding weather stripping and caulk around windows and doors can also improve a home’s insulation.

• Turn down the thermostat or install a programmable thermostat to regulate temperature.

• Clean the furnace area. Don’t keep chemicals or cleaning products near a heater, and don’t store anything next to it that could impede ventilation.

• Free all vents and returns of obstructions. Don’t lay carpet over vents, place furniture over or in front of them, or obstruct the flow of air.

• Dry air feels cooler than moist air, so install a humidifier. A simple humidifier may make the home feel five degrees warmer than a home with dry air.
• Look into geothermal heating systems which use earth’s natural heat and are among the most efficient and energy-conserving heating and cooling technologies currently available.

• For optimal performance of your HVAC system, get an annual service contract which includes both heating and cooling maintenance. But take care to avoid poor service and scams. To find a qualified local contractor who employs certified HVACR professionals, look for the NATE logo or go to

By incorporating a few energy-friendly habits into your routine and by making sure your heating system is operating optimally, this season, you can keep utility bills low while maintaining a cozy, comfortable home.