Lots of home environment systems shifted from air conditioning to heating when the cold front went through the area Friday night.

Many of those systems were simply turned on without ever being serviced for maximum operation efficiency.

Proper service on the heating system will help insure an efficiently operating system, said Pratt Fire Chief David Kramer.

One simple piece of maintenance is cleaning or replacing the filter. A clean filter insures a proper airflow in the system for maximum efficiency and it is an easy part of maintenance.

If the filters are not replaced, the furnace will have to work harder to compensate for poor airflow. The furnace will get hotter than necessary and that will increase the possibility of a fire, Kramer said.

Filters should be changed at minimum of twice a year with some manufactures suggesting that they be changed once a month.

Cleaning the burners in the furnace also increase furnace efficiency. If the burners are not operating properly, it can lead to a build up of carbon monoxide in the system and that can have serious consequences.

A professional inspection will insure that the heating elements are clean and operating properly to provide efficient heating and to keep heating bills as low as possible.

A furnace that is not working properly will run longer and cost more to operate, Kramer said.

Besides a furnace in the basement, floor furnaces and wall heaters need to be inspected regularly as well.

If a system is not properly maintained, it could get too hot. Most systems have a limiting switch that will shut the system off if it gets too hot. If a system is left in poor working condition it could cause a malfunction with bad consequences.

For the homes that use a fireplace, creosote can build up on the inside of a chimney and become a fire hazard.

Wood that has not been properly dried, or green wood, is the source of creosote buildup. Beside the fire hazard, buildup in a chimney can lead to a poor draw of air that leads to a buildup of carbon monoxide so chimney maintenance is important.

The outside of a chimney should also be inspected. If the mortar on a chimney is in poor condition, that can also lead to a poor draft and again lead to a carbon monoxide buildup, Kramer said.

A mortar issue can also cause excess carbon monoxide and heat to accumulate in the attic and cause a fire hazard.

Keeping a protective cover in front of a fire place helps prevent sparks from injuring family members and pets as well as damaging carpet and furniture, Kramer said.

Fireplace wood should be seasoned wood that has dried at least six months or longer since it was cut.

Some homes will use an alternative-heating source like a kerosene or electric heater. These should be inspected to insure they are in good working order too. Any heater that uses a fuel can produce carbon monoxide so they need to be in good working order too.

If an electric heater is used, is should be placed so it is well away from flammable materials.

If an extension cord is necessary, it must be long enough and rated to handle that particular heater. Electrical cords can also get overheated. Never run an electrical cord under a rug and never use one that doesn't have high enough rating for the electrical heater.

When switching over from cooling to heating, that is a good time to check the batteries in smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.

It is important to follow these guidelines. The number of home fires always increases when homes switch over from cooling to heating.

"It's a regular event," Kramer said. "Safety needs to be at the top of everyone's list."