Unless you live in the tropics, heating maintenance should be on your fall season to-do list. Take the time to get a professional inspection and tune-up to maximize your system's energy efficiency, prevent hazardous emissions, avoid costly mid-winter repairs and keep your family comfortable.Safety FirstWhile brand-new electrical heating systems require little maintenance, older gas and oil furnaces can be quite hazardous if left uninspected and unmaintained. That's because today's heating systems are equipped with fail-safe mechanisms to shut themselves down when things go wrong, but older furnaces don't have those features. A leaking oil furnace can cause an explosion of soot throughout your home. If a gas furnace accumulates too much debris or just wears out, it can develop small cracks in its combustion chamber, and deadly carbon monoxide can leak into the home. It's odorless and invisible, and caused flulike symptoms, confusion, unconsciousness and even death. The price of inspection and cleaning is small compared to the danger it can prevent.What about Money?According to the University of Missouri, a fall heating system service can reduce your fuel bill as much as 10 percent. To save money in the winter, concentrate heat where you need it: living areas, bathroom and study areas. Lower the heat in areas with less activity, such as kitchens and bedrooms, and turn it way down in unused rooms. Dust on radiators, convectors, baseboard heating units or in ducts insulates them and wastes heat. Vacuum them regularly. In addition, you can improve energy efficiency by painting radiators with special paint and adding a sheet of metal or aluminum foil behind radiators near cold walls so that heat will be reflected into the room. Finally, don't block air inlets and outlets, including radiators, with furniture, drapes or clothing.Spotting TroubleThere are signs that your heating system needs maintenance, repair or replacement:Call a pro immediately if you notice odors, soot at the burner, black smoke rising from the chimney or surging water in a boiler – these can indicate serious malfunction or improper adjustment.If your home heats unevenly, or some rooms get warmer than you'd like, balancing by a pro may be in order.If your furnace runs constantly on cold days but your home doesn't reach your required temperature, you may need a larger system or your current system may need repair.If you hear grinding sounds or clunking, you may have ignition, belt or relay problems. Unless you are comfortable changing them out, call a pro.A professional tune-up of a gas or oil furnace should include cleaning furnace and flue outlets, checking the belt for tension and wear, oiling the motor and fan bearings (if they are not sealed), changing or cleaning the filters, checking combustion and safety devices and making any other adjustments or tests recommended in the owner's manual. Do it yourself or call in a specialist – every year.Need More Help?If you need professional help with your project, LendingTree Home Pros can help.The good news is that LendingTree Home Pros maintains a directory of home service professionals and can match you with a home pro in your area. All the home pros listed in the LendingTree Home Pros directory are properly licensed and insured and are backed by a $10,000 money-back guarantee!Let LendingTree Home Pros help you find a pro today!