It’s finally gotten cold enough that many people have relented and switched on their furnaces.

Every year, many people just switch the thermostat to heat, change the temperature setting and turn on the furnace without thinking about checking to see if everything is working properly.

Before starting the furnace, it’s a good idea to have the unit checked to see if it is in working condition.

Furnaces can get dirty and that can affect the mixture of gas and air, said Pratt Fire Chief David Kramer.

If the mixture is incorrect, it can lead to excessive carbon monoxide buildup in the home. An incorrect mix can also cause reduce the efficiency of the unit.

To clean the furnace, vacuum out the firebox to get all the loose debris out, especially off the top of the burners. When operating properly, the flame will burn bright.

It’s also a good time to change the air filter. A new filter will improve air furnace operation and make it more efficient.

Homeowners can do the cleaning themselves or they can contact a professional. Either way, getting the furnace prepared for the heating season can provide an efficient system that can also save the homeowner money, Kramer said.

The thermostat is also often taken for granted. If the thermostat isn’t working properly it can cause safety issues and can cost the homeowner money. If the furnace is constantly running or isn’t coming on when it should, a thermostat might be the problem.

For those with fireplaces, it is vitally important that the fireplace is prepared before starting the wood-burning season.

The fireplace should be cleaned every year with attention to the chimney and flu.

Wood fires create soot and smoke that builds up on the chimney and it needs to be removed to provide adequate ventilation. Homeowners can either take care of maintenance themselves with proper brushes and equipment or they can hire it done professionally, Kramer said.

Cleaning requires getting on top of the roof and cleaning down through the chimney.

Wood needs to be dried before burning in a fireplace. Wood that is not seasoned can produce natural creosote that accumulates on a chimney and is a fire hazard.

Once the fireplace is ready, some safety factors need to be followed.

Some type of screen also needs to be in place to prevent popping embers from hitting the people or the floor. All combustibles should be kept away from fireplaces as well.

Never start a fire using a combustible fluid to start a fire. The vapors from the fluid can ignite and flash out, causing injury and damage.

“Many, many people get burned doing that,” Kramer said.

Some people choose to use electric heaters. It is important to keep all flammable materials away from the heaters. Also make sure that any extension cords are in good condition and are the proper rating for the heater.

Electric heaters use a lot of electricity so homeowners need to keep a close eye on usage to prevent a big heating bill.