GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The furnace is a priceless appliance on cold winter nights, but it can be forgotten in the warmer spring and summer months. And now that temperatures have started to drop Michiganders are once again turning on the heat.

If this week is the first time you are looking at your furnace in months, there are a few things you should check to ensure your heating system is running properly. 

13 ON YOUR SIDE spoke to Gary Haisma, owner of Haisma Heating and Cooling in Grand Rapids. He says every furnace should be tuned up at least once every fall. Haisma says he has been getting a lot of calls this week as residents are running into heating problems. 

"A lot of people pride themselves on how long they can go without turning it on," he says, "then they turn it on and all of a sudden it's an emergency." 

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Here is a list of steps you can take to ensure that your furnace is running properly: 

1. Check the batteries in the thermostat, their battery life is typically one year.
2. Check the air filter found on either side of the furnace, make sure it is clean.
3. Inspect the vent pipes outside to make sure they are clear of debris. Remember that the vent pipes could be on the roof.
4. Turn the thermostat on, wait 5 minutes to make sure that everything turns on.
5. Turn the thermostat down, and wait for everything to cycle off.

If you made it through the checklist without any problems, then your furnace is likely in good shape. However, you still may want a heating professional to check for problems that you cannot see such as cracks that could release carbon monoxide.

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Residents can also contact their local fire department to have fire detectors and carbon monoxide detectors installed in their homes. Chief Fire Inspector Phil McCormack says that the fire department is always willing to provide advice for anyone that is concerned about their safety.

"If residents buy their own detectors, your local fire department is always willing to offer advice on how to do those installations."

McCormack says by having your appliances checked annually and testing your fire and carbon monoxide detectors regularly, you should be ready for winter. But he warns to pay attention to any alarm bells.

"If your carbon monoxide detector goes off, take that seriously," he says. "Take steps to figure out why it went off; there has to be a reason for it."

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