As winter approaches, you may already be turning on your heat to combat colder temperatures.

If you're in a northern part of the country, it is likely you're ready for additional warmth as early as October. Given the need for your heating system, you should ensure all its parts are in working order before you turn it on. This includes preparing your furnace for extended use in winter.

Schedule an inspection

Ordering a home inspection will give you an account of how your furnace is operating in addition to understanding the overall readiness of your home for the upcoming winter. This includes determining whether the device is operating properly and if there is risk of a carbon monoxide leak. Health and safety are key considerations in addition to functionality, so it doesn't hurt to have a professional give your heating system a once-over.

Change the filter

Before you turn your heat on for the first time, replace the current filter. This is a step you'll have to repeat while using your heating system. It is typically recommended you at least check your filter monthly to see if it needs to be replaced. While shopping for air filters, consider purchasing energy-efficient products. These filters can help lower your energy costs.

Clear your air ducts and vents

Over time, your ducts become full of dust. Remove your vent covers and use a vacuum extension to remove dust. Depending on how long it has been since you last cleaned your ducts, if you see an accumulation of dust, pet hair, or dirt, you may need to call in a professional to provide a more thorough cleaning.

Once you're done cleaning, open your vent covers and remove any obstructions preventing airflow. If you've got a couch, bed or dresser blocking a vent, pull it back to allow the heat to freely flow in your home.

Clean up around your furnace

If space is at a premium in your house, you may need to find creative ways to store your possessions. However, your plan shouldn't include cluttering the area near your furnace. Doing so poses a fire risk. If you have items or trash in the area, clear it before you start your heating system.