The transition from hot summer weather, to cold winter weather, was extremely short this past year. We did not really have an actual fall season. One day the outside temperature was in the low eighties, and the next, it dropped down to the upper thirties. There was no break between running the air conditioner and relying on the furnace. During that time, my life was especially hectic. My children are all involved in sports and clubs at school, and I work extremely long hours. My husband fell down some stairs and broke his leg, and our water heater ruptured and flooded the basement. I totally forgot about scheduling annual maintenance for the furnace. When I started the heating system for the first time, I noticed a great deal of dust in the air and the smell of burnt hair. But with everything else going on, I never did anything about it. When the house felt a little chilly, I bumped up the thermostat by several degrees. I didn’t realize that my husband and children were also increasing the thermostat setting, until the monthly energy bill arrived in the mail. I was shocked by my heating costs, especially because the house wasn’t exactly warm and comfortable. Unwilling to keep spending so much on heating, I finally hired an HVAC contractor to take a look at the furnace. He confirmed that the inner workings were clogged with dust and debris, and said I was lucky the system hadn’t overheated and caused a cracked heat exchanger. He recommended that I invest in a service plan, which would include seasonal cleaning, tuning, and troubleshooting. The HVAC contractor now calls me in the fall to remind me to schedule proactive maintenance.