Keeping your furnace up and running during the bitter cold

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WEST MICHIGAN -- Jason Smith with West Michigan Heating and Air Conditioning is on the go from one house and business to the next. He's busy with heating tune-ups and furnace failures which, he said, ramp up this time of year.

"When the temperatures are so low this is when we see some of the... just the little things that could have been done to stop service calls," Smith explained.

He suggests the following:

- Do a visual check to see if something seems wrong
- Change your filters. Plugged filters cause the furnace to overheat and shut off as a safety mechanism.
- Make sure the vent opening on the side of your home isn't covered by snow or anything else. (Some, usually older furnaces ventilate through the chimney.           - Schedule routine maintenance check-ups

If your furnace runs but isn't heating up your home, the cause could be as simple as a switch on the thermostat. Other reasons could be a dirty flame sensor, the pilot light's gone out, etc. The most technical problems require a technician. Smith said the outdoor temperatures may make the difference in your furnace's performance.

"The furnaces work harder when the temperatures are much lower, which causes any of the minute problems that have been hidden in the past to really come to the forefront," Smith said.

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