The first official day of winter is six weeks away. 

Before turning on the furnace for the cold months, Dylan Neufeld with Polar Plumbing and Heating in Winkler, says homeowners need to do a little prep. 

"Everybody gets their car serviced. If you're planning on going on a road trip, you want to make sure that that thing is in tiptop shape. Well, in Manitoba we're headed on a road trip through winter here, and furnaces can be serviced and prepared for that road trip," he explained. "The better off you'll be for sure, so your furnace is sitting there stagnant. Your fan might be working for air conditioner out throughout the summer, but the furnace parts they're sitting there doing nothing. So, when you get those things kicked up and going again, you want to make sure that they're working."

With rising cost of energy, Neufeld says getting a furnace serviced by a professional can help homeowners avoid another big bill.

"First thing, the technician is going to come in, and depending on what needs to be looked at and if you think it's the furnace, he'll go in there and if you're looking to get it cleaned, or if it's not heating, he'll do his diagnosis. A lot of people like to know what the cost is going to be before the work is going to be done. We've developed a straightforward price guide. It's a 10-level guide that has basically everything that needs to be done in a home on it. And that way a diagnosis can be done and then a price can be given before we do the work."

That brief burning smell coming from ducts when a furnace is turned on in fall is not cause for worry said Neufeld. It comes from dust being burned off the heating elements inside the unit.

One of the most common furnace issues is also one of the easiest to fix.

"A common thing is maybe a filter. It's the simplest thing that we can check, and it's something that as a homeowner you can do yourself. So, your furnace, in order for it to work needs to have air flowing through it. Your filter is designed to catch all the naughties that are going through there. Once it's done its job it's going to be all plugged up. Once that's plugged up your furnace will not have enough air to flow through it and it will trip on something called the 'high limit'. So, it'll say, 'hey no, I'm getting too hot - I gotta turn off.' That's the first indicator that you have to check the filter when that happens."

Neufeld recommends checking the furnace filter once a month, inspecting exhaust vents once snow begins to pile up and removing the garden hose from outdoor water taps to avoid ice damage.