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Keeping filters up to date is a vital part of HVAC maintenance.

Right now is the perfect time to check up on your heating system and make sure it’s ready for fall and winter. HVAC pros are already getting their schedules filled up, so if you want an inspection, it’s best to call them sooner rather than later. Not only does this get your system prepped with plenty of time, but you can complete any necessary repairs before you really need the heat. The last thing you want is to fire it up and get nothing!

You should hire a licensed HVAC contractor to inspect your system twice a year: before starting up your air conditioner and before starting up your heater. Your heating pro will check all the vital systems and be sure the system is reliable and safe. They’ll also take a look at the cooling side as well, so if either component of your system is developing problems, this inspection can catch small problems before they become big (and expensive) ones. This inspection will generally cost about $100. If you have a service contract with an HVAC pro, there’s a good chance twice-yearly inspections are already included.

How to perform your own inspection

The pros know what to look for inside the system, but you can also take steps to evaluate and protect your system. Take a look and make sure the system is free of residue or soot. Inspect duct work for loose connections, and seal any openings.

Ensure proper clearance by removing items from around the furnace. You don’t want to block airflow, and you definitely don’t want combustible items around it. Make sure all windows and doors in the house are sealed properly. Sealing your home from air infiltration keeps cold air out of the house, which can help prevent high utility bills.

Clean the areas you can reach with a vacuum and brush attachment. Getting rid of debris on filters and coils will help the air flow. Take care not to damage or jar any components, though. You only want to address the surface issues; getting into the system’s internal areas is best left to a licensed pro.

Replace your furnace’s air filter. It’s a good idea to do this frequently (usually monthly, but pleated filters will last longer), but it’s most important when the system switches from heating to cooling and vice versa.

Tweet your home care questions with #AskAngi and we’ll try to answer them in a future column.