By Cleve Bryan

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VINELAND, N.J. (CBS) — Often hidden in closets and basements, it’s the one appliance you can’d do without: your heater. And common forced air systems require regular maintenance.

In the midst of a cold snap, when his company is being flooded with calls, Marty Graham from Ben’s ProServ in Vineland walked Eyewitness News through some of that typical maintenance, starting with the air filter.

“With this type of weather, where everything is running in excess, if the filter is dirty it can make the heater overheat and not work properly,” Graham said.

Air filters range from about to $10 to $30 and most aren’t too difficult to change.

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But other work is probably better suited to a yearly visit from the pros.

“The flame sensor needs to be cleaned, ignition system needs to be checked, gas pressure,” Graham said.

Dirty or broken parts can cause your heater to repeatedly turn on and off or shut down completely.

Some things you can do to keep your heater from overworking and running up the utility bill during extreme cold include opening drapes and blinds during the day to let in heat from the sun.

And do not adjust the temperature of your home multiple times a day.

“So, if you like it as 70, set it at 70 or 72 and just leave it alone,” Maria Murphy said. “If you have a hold, put the program on hold so it’s not dropping down to 65 and then trying to recover when it’s zero degrees outside.”

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It’s also good to leave doors open throughout your home to improve ventilation.

And while insulation helps prevent pipes from freezing, your heater is also your plumbing work’s best friend.

“You might even want to open the kitchen cabinets under the sink or the bathroom to avoid the pipes from freezing under there,” Murphy said.