Heating is one of the primary concerns for all homeowners this winter. While there are many different solutions for staying warm during the coldest months, many people have a furnace tucked away in the basement.

Therefore, a home inspection should be completed in the fall, before the furnace needs to be relied on regularly. These critical components could become hazardous without the proper upkeep, and nobody wants to deal with problems in the middle of winter.

How to tell if a furnace has problems

Before turning up the heat, homeowners should take a look around the house and make sure that everything appears in good, working order. According to the United States Fire Administration, all furnace controls and emergency shutoffs must be operational. Even so, a home inspection on a regular basis is a great way to prevent costly repairs.

For starters, signs of problems could be hot surface areas around the furnace and the chimney line, the USFA explained. If this appears to be an issue, the most likely solution is additional insulation or clearance. The flue pipe and pipe seams should also be in good shape, without any holes or cracks. 

In addition, the furnace chimney needs to be sturdy, the USFA noted. Any loose bricks or other damaged sections could pose a hazard, and any trash or other combustibles should be kept away from the system itself. A licensed property inspection professional could shed some light on a home's heating situation, and clarify any concerns residents may have.

Do's and don'ts of furnace maintenance

If an inspector spots any problems with a furnace, homeowners should call in professional help in order to make any repairs safely. However, people who want to tackle some maintenance projects on their own should also take several key precautions.

Before doing any work, the electrical power and fuel supply to the furnace should be shut off, according to This Old House. In homes, this means the big, red switchplate located near the basement stairs or the furnace itself. Afterward, the inside of the combustion chamber could be cleaned out. These areas often gain a buildup of soot, which can lead to corrosion.

Moreover, some heating systems have air filters. Replacing one is relatively simple, and should be done about once per year, the news source noted. All the air piped into the home goes through this, so a new one could be a drastic upgrade in air quality.