Now is the perfect time to inspect your furnace before the upcoming cold weather hits.

I want to be clear right off the bat. The SINGLE BEST WAY for you to make sure your furnace is ready is to have an hvac professional come out to your house and do a thorough inspection.

If you have never had your system inspected by a pro, now is the time.

If you have an older system (10 years old or older) and you would like to stretch extra life out of the system, now is the time to have it inspected by a pro.

If you had higher than normal energy bills last winter, now is the time to have your system inspected by a pro.

What makes this the perfect time is that with no hot weather on the horizon, and no freezing cold weather either for that matter, your favorite hvac company is waiting for your call.

Your timing couldn't be better.

You can figure a quality inspection by a quality company will run you around $250'ish. If you already are the proud owner of a maintenance agreement with an hvac company, your cost may vary. (Maintenance agreements are the best way to go. They run about $158 for the first unit and about $85 for each unit after that. They are probably the most important thing you can do for your hvac system.)

Why is it so important to have done?

Because unlike your air conditioner, your furnace can bring bad news with it.

If your a/c goes out, you will be hot and sweaty and inconvenienced and that's about it.

However, if your furnace goes bad, you can be dealing with carbon monoxide poisoning which is downright deadly. That is why it is very important to make sure your furnace is up to snuff.

Now I understand that times are tough, and say maybe you have a unit that is 5-7 years old and you haven't had any trouble with it so you are just going to poke and hope for the best for this winter.

That's fine - but at least run through the following checklist yourself to make sure the basics are in order.

- Find your filter and change or clean it! A clean filter means a happier unit. (Here's a bonus tip - change it again in the spring. Here's a double bonus tip - change it every three months while you are at it.)

- Check the flame. It should be burning blue. A yellow flame or a sparkly looking flame is a danger sign. A blue flame is a healthy flame.

- Look for rust on and around your burners and heat exchanger. Rust is a danger sign. It means your system is fatiguing and you should call a pro.

- Check your exhaust pipe (flue pipe) to make sure it is fully connected leaving your system. Now go up into your attic and make sure it is connected all the way through your roof.

If you have had a new roof installed recently, it is very important that you check the flue pipe in the attic. Occasionally a roofer will forget to re-connect the flue pipe which means your furnace is venting into your attic. Dangerous. Not good.

Now get to it. Don't get caught sitting on the fence - if you think you need a new or a more efficient system, pull the trigger now.