Setting back our clocks doesn’t just mean an extra hour of sleep. It’s also a reminder to check certain systems inside your home to be sure that they are working properly as cold weather approaches:

1. Inspect Your HVAC System: Before you turn on your a/c for the summer or your heater for the winter, make sure the entire system is in good working order. Unless you have a technical background in this sort of machinery, consider purchasing a maintenance contract with a reputable HVAC service company. They start around $200 per year and often pay for themselves with two free annual seasonal checkups of your system and significant discounts on labor and/or parts if you need repair during the contract period.

2. Change Furnace Filter: Most homes have a standard HVAC system with removable/replaceable filters to catch dust, pet dander, pollen and other particles that otherwise would circulate throughout the home. There are different levels of filter available - - those that capture a lot of particles, those that capture only a few, and those in-between. Which you choose may depend on whether you have pets, how many people live in your home, or whether you have allergies. Filter labels generally state specifically what they filter out and what they don’t.

3. Program Your Thermostat: By programming the thermostat to bring the HVAC system on and off based on your occupancy schedule, and/or to turn the heat down at night when you’re in bed then turn it up just before you arise, you can save anywhere between 3% to 5% on your heating and cooling bills. Of course, this presupposes you have a programmable thermostat. If you don’t, you can purchase one at a home center and install it yourself following the included instructions. If you have a heat pump, however, efficient operation dictates that you set your thermostat at the desired temperature level and leave it there day and night.

4. Close/Open Room Vents: Since heat rises, it makes sense to give warm air maximum access to your lower level rooms in the winter and cool air maximum access to the upper rooms in the summer. You can accomplish this by closing the HVAC vents in upper rooms and opening them in lower rooms in the winter and doing the opposite in the summer.

5. Professional Chimney Inspection/Cleaning: Have a licensed contractor professionally clean and inspect your fireplace/chimney once a year to remove creosote build-up and detect and repair firebox or chimney liner cracks, gas line leaks, chimney cap or bird screen cracks and other fire hazards.

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