BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s fall, and for many of us, the heat is already flowing through our homes.

If you’ve turned your heat back on, but haven’t had your furnace checked out, it’s definitely time to call someone.

Local HVAC specialist Rick Maines has 45 years of experience in the heating business. Now five years retired, he spent the last 10 years of his career servicing boilers for the New York State Thruway Authority. Prior to that, he worked for a number of oil companies in the area.

Maines said that an unchecked furnace can not only lead to higher costs, but potential health hazards, too.

While working, he says he’s had moments where he’s pointed out the smell of gas to people, which can be a dangerous sign. If you smell gas, you might have a leak, and should immediately call someone to check on that.

Carbon monoxide can be deadly. Maines recommends that every home with a gas appliance have at least one working carbon monoxide detector, and for a two-story home, two.

And again, the financial cost that comes from a furnace not at peak performance can add up, too.

“Especially now with the price of fuel, you want to make sure they’re operating at their peak efficiency. They can be giving you heat, but they could be running very inefficiently,” Maines said.

According to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the latest cost of home heating oil is around $5 per gallon, and it’s about 19 cents more in the western region of the state.

It’s an increase compared to last year around this time, NYSERDA says, noting that New York’s average price was around $3.12, while the western region’s was approximately $3.43 per gallon.

A lot can impede a furnace’s ability to work well.

“You’d be surprised what you can find,” Maines said. “I’ve found bats in them. I’ve found mice, birds, you name it.”

Throughout the year, there are things home and business owners can do themselves, too. It’s as simple as keeping your chimney clean and making sure vents, whether they be on the roof or elsewhere on the house, are clear.

Beyond that, furnace filters should be changed at least once per season. Maines says every three months is a good practice. For people with pets or allergies, it’s sometimes an even better idea to change them monthly, depending on the situation, Maines said.

A good furnace should last a couple decades, Maines said. With the average cost of replacement landing somewhere between $2,500 and $5,000, Maines recommends people do what they can to take care of their own, and that includes scheduling a service appointment.

“It’s best not to wait too long, because the companies get pretty busy,” Maines said. “You call and they say, ‘Well, it’ll be two months before we can get to you,’ and you’re already into winter.”

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Evan Anstey is an Associated Press Award, JANY Award and Emmy-nominated digital producer who has been part of the News 4 team since 2015. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.