CHAPEL HILL – We’ve had some cold weather so far this late Autumn and the forecast is calling for a return to some colder conditions after today’s warm snap.

Matt Lawrence is the deputy chief of operations with the Chapel Hill Fire Department.  He tells WCHL News that it is a very good idea to have your furnaces checked out by a professional in order to prevent a fire.

“Your HVAC technician comes out and take a look at that,” Lawrence says.  “A lot of those companies offer maintenance programs that set you up on a schedule that they will come out at the beginning of the heating season just to evaluate your furnace to make sure it is safe to use.”

Lawrence says an unsafe furnace is more than just a fire risk.

“Not only do you have a fire risk from dust and things building-up on burners and heating coils and things like that,” Lawrence says.  If you have gas heat in your home, you have a real risk for carbon monoxide poison.”

He also says when you are using an alternate heat source, such as an electric or oil-burning space heater, it is just plain common sense to make sure you don’t place it near something else, which could catch on fire.

“You need to maintain adequate clearance,” Lawrence says.  “And the manufacturer will generally tell you what those clearances are.   If you can’t find that information, a good rule of thumb is 36 inches … no closer.  No combustibles within 36 inches of the heater.”

Chief Lawrence also reminds homeowners to only use an alternate heat source, which is U-L approved.