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story.lead_photo.caption Keeping filters up to date is a vital part of HVAC maintenance. (Charles Knowles/Dreamstime/TNS)

Even as hot weather covers most of the nation, chillier fall days may be closer than you think. 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 in October 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 a personal 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.

• Clean the areas you can reach with a vacuum and brush attachment.

• Replace your furnace’s air filter.

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