COUNTY—Having reached the official start of Autumn at the end of September, with temperatures soon to grow ever cooler, now is a good time to make sure one's house is ready for the cold to come.

As both a safety measure and a means of reducing fuel costs by 10 percent or more, UGI recommends residents have their heating systems professionally serviced.

Servicing should include inspecting thermostats and pilot lights (if one exists) are working properly, checking fuel lines and heat exchangers for cracks or leaks, and testing heating system efficiency.

Malfunctioning heating systems, in addition to being a fire hazard, can also produce carbon monoxide (CO), a deadly, invisible gas with no odor.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), small amounts of CO can poison individuals over a long period of time and large amounts of CO can be fatal in minutes.

NFPA recommends inspecting heating vents and flues for proper ventilation and installing and inspecting CO monitors to prevent such catastrophes.

Similarly, UGI recommends ensuring water heaters and furnaces have proper air flow, especially if they're enclosed in a room, to reduce CO build-up in a residence.

While making sure air flow is getting to the right places, using weather stripping or caulk to seal small air leaks around doors, windows, pipes, outlets and recessed lighting can reduce heating bills by 10-20 percent, states UGI.

In addition to this, UGI cautions residents to also inspect their heating system filters and clean or replace them as necessary every three months.

“Filters that are properly fitted and cleaned or replaced regularly can have a significant impact on your energy costs and the quality of air in your home,” states a release from UGI.

Heat registers should also be cleaned of dust and pet fur prior to heat systems being activated for cooler Autumn temperatures.

As heating implements kick on, NFPA reminds residents to be sure their furnaces, water heaters and other warming devices are clear of flammable materials.

NFPA recommends leaving the area around heaters and furnaces clear for at least three feet on all sides.

In addition to preventing fires, establishing this three-foot area as a “kid-free zone” will also reduce the chance of children being burned, says NFPA.

When using space heaters and other portable furnaces, NFPA advises shutting them off when leaving the area or going to sleep.

Residents should also never use their oven to heat their homes.

To prevent electrical fires, UGI advises homeowners not to overload extension cords with too many devices.

Additionally, cords should be inspected for frays, cracks, loose connections and bare wires before using them.

Residents should make sure a cord is rated for the load of the appliances plugged into it, never pinched in doors or windows, and never stapled or nailed to a wall or floor.

UGI also advises customers to check for rebates on energy-saving home or business installations.

More details are available on www.ugi.com/savesmart.

—Information from a release was used in this story.