As temperatures drop and leaves change color, seasonal tasks like yard work, clearing gutters and changing out screen doors for storm doors are on many homeowners’ autumn to-do lists, and HVAC system maintenance should also be on their radar.

Tackle these 9 tasks every fall to ensure your HVAC system is in good shape for the cooler weather.

Test the heat.

Even if it’s still warm enough outside that heat isn’t yet necessary, adjust the thermostat manually so the heat kicks on. This simple action will tell you whether or not your heat is working – something you want to know well before you need it.

Listen for unusual noises.

While you’re testing the heat, keep an ear out for any clanking, squeaking, rattling, scraping, etc. Any strange noise can indicate a problem with the HVAC system, and if you hear one, a fan motor blower could be failing; a register could be blocked; or debris could have gotten in the ductwork.

Check and replace the air filters.

Dirty air filters decrease efficiency and strain the system, and they should be changed regularly. The new high-efficiency pleated air filters trap even small particles, dust, pollen, mold and dander, making them a good option for people with allergies or asthma.

Clean heating registers.

Keep registers and ducts clean. Wipe down or vacuum registers as often as possible to keep the HVAC system free of dust and debris.

Move anything combustible away from the furnace.

Sometimes paint cans and cleaning supplies get piled up near a furnace in the warmer weather when the furnace isn’t in use. The area near the furnace should be clean and open.

Clear any register blockages.

If you have furniture or other items in front of heating registers, it will prevent heat from reaching living spaces, which can strain the system.

Test and change carbon monoxide and smoke detector batteries.

While not part of an HVAC system, these devices ensure the safety of everyone in the home. Fall is a good time to make sure any alarms are in good repair.

Replace the furnace’s water panel.

Also known as a humidifier pad, this furnace component ensures proper humidity to keep the home’s air from getting too dry. Replace the water panel, set the relative humidity between 35 and 45 percent, and turn the water supply to the furnace back on.

Schedule a maintenance check-up with a trusted HVAC professional.

While homeowners can perform some HVAC maintenance themselves, it’s never a bad idea to hire a pro to make sure everything is in tiptop shape. The HVAC professional will inspect, clean and adjust your furnace components and ensure all equipment is functioning properly to keep your home comfortable during even the coldest days of the winter season.