If you want your furnace to work optimally when winter sets in, it is important that you take some time out to check and prepare it in advance. Doing so will go a long way toward ensuring a hassle-free winter, without the inconveniences of furnace breakdowns and service calls.

Plus, nothing is more unpleasant than having to get your furnace fixed in the dead of winter. Not only are technicians busy and it takes longer to get an appointment, but also it will cost you more as maintenance charges are higher during the cold season.

Here are a few simple steps that all homeowners can take to prepare their furnace before the next freeze.

Clean the room

Too often, the furnace is located in a cluttered storage room or basement, surrounded by luggage, old clothes, toys and more.

The firststep is to relocate everything and clear the surrounding area of your furnace. Make sure that you clean the furnace room thoroughly and vacuum up and dust, removing all the dirt that might otherwise end up getting sucked into your furnace filter. The furnace and its pilot light should be fully visible and accessible.

Clean the filter

The second step is to clean your furnace’s filter. The filter needs to be cleaned regularly, at least once a month, as it takes in the dirtthat may obstruct it. Ignoring this task may result in a cloggedfilter, which affectsfunctioning. It will not only take more time to heat your housebut also cost you more on your the energy bill as your furnace runs more inefficiently.

Fortunately, cleaning the filter is not difficult. Simply turn off your furnace from the thermostat, remove the access panel and remove the rectangular filter screen (which is usually inserted either horizontally or vertically near the air intake). If it is a reusable plastic type, simply wash it with water and let dry before putting it back in place. If your furnace uses disposable paper filters simply replace it with a new one.

Clean the vents and ducts

Vents and ducts carry hot air from your furnace and pull in cool air for it to heat. In order to ensure efficient operation, they must be clean and unobstructed.

To clean your vents and ducts, wipe any dust and dirt off the exterior service, and then check the insidethoroughly to see if there is any blockage. Remove any obstruction (if any) and make sure air is freely blowing.

Check the fan belt

If you’re really comfortable with your furnace, it’s worth checking the fan belt as well before the weather takes a turn. The fan belt or blower belt is what keeps your furnace up and running, and if dirty or otherwise not functioning properly it will take longer to heat the rooms and house and you will end up using more gas or electricity.

Although cleaning fan belt will take your little more time it is a worthwhile project that isn’t too hard.

First, look over the belt carefully for any frayed areas or cracks. If you find parts wearing off, replace the whole thing instead of fixing those frayed areas.

Next, inspect the belt’s tension. If it is loose, replace it.

You can tighten the belt by loosening the attachment bracket, increasing the tension on the belt by moving the assembly, and finally fixing the attachment bracket back in place.

Overall, a well maintained furnace is a safe, efficient furnace. So, before winter hits make sure that your furnace is in good working condition.