After this year's scorching summer, the temperatures have now well and truly dropped and there is a definite feeling in the air that winter is on its way. Most parts of the country have enjoyed a fantastic few months of weather and the majority of us have not used our fireplaces or central heating since April. As the nights start to draw in and the leaves begin to fall from the trees, our thoughts turn to the winter ahead and it is time to make sure your fireplace is in good working order.

Here are a few tips to ensure your fire won't let you down when you most need it.

Electric fires

Electric fires are extremely low-maintenance and should operate for many years without any issues. Check yours - if it is still working effectively with no problems, you should be fine for the winter. Check the manufacturer's instruction booklet for cleaning advice and simply give it a good clean if you haven't done so for a while.

Gas fires

It is recommended that you have your gas fire serviced annually, which can extend the life of your fire in addition to checking that it is operating safely and efficiently. Gas engineers will be getting increasingly busy as winter gets closer - if your fire is due a service, get it booked in as soon as possible and be sure to only use Gas Safe-registered engineers. Different companies and engineers will offer different services, so check what you are getting before you commit if you are using a new provider.

Wood & Solid fuel burning stoves

You should have cleaned out your stove and given it a maintenance check after you last used it, so it should take minimal work to get it ready for the winter. If you have not had your chimney swept recently, get this service booked in now. Chimneys should generally be checked and swept at least once a year by an experienced professional. Never neglect this task - it is extremely important, as a blocked chimney can increase the risk of fire.

You should be able to conduct a basic stove maintenance check yourself and can refer to the manufacturer's guidelines for help. If you didn't thoroughly clean your stove at the end of last winter, do so now, using appropriate accessories and cleaning products. Be sure to check the seal around the stove's door and arrange for any damaged or worn parts to be replaced before you attempt to use the stove again.