Your heating and air conditioning keep you cozy and warm in the winter and cool and comfortable in the summer. But just like any other appliance during the chilly months, your heater requires maintenance and repairs in order to stay in top condition.

Furthermore, you need to pay attention to it to make sure that it is not sucking up money on your energy bill. You can take simple steps to ensure that your heater does not break down due to little things. Here are three tips for getting the most out of your heater.

Keep dust away from your pilot light.

Under normal conditions, your pilot light should be a steady tongue of flame that is yellow with a blue halo. If it is flickering and a different color, then something may be obstructing it or there may be something wrong with the chemical composition in the furnace. Keep track of your pilot light to see if there are potential problems.

You should also keep the area around pilot light clean and free of dust. Take a drinking straw and gently blow accumulated dust away from the pilot light. It is important that you do not blow air into the flame, as you may extinguish it.

Change the air filter often.

The air filter in your heater is the shield that keeps it from accumulating grime and dust. Your air filter should be changed every few weeks when you are running your heater. If you do not keep up your air filter, then dust can back up into your vents and cause dirty air to circulate throughout your home. Pleated, disposable air filters should be replaced; however, permanent air filters can simply be washed with warm soapy water. They can even be put through the dishwasher as long as the heat drying cycle is turned off. These types of air filters should be laid out to dry flat in a cool, dry area to allow them to retain their shape.

Invest in a programmable thermostat.

In order to save money on your energy bill, think about investing in a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat allows you to set temperatures ahead of time, and some models even 'learn' what temperatures you like best at specific times of day. A programmable thermostat allows you to come home to a warm house without leaving your heater on all day. You'll keep your home comfy and cozy without wasted effort or energy.