Autumn brings cool days, colorful trees, and the annual debate over when it’s time to turn on the heat. On one side are household members who are “freezing,” barefoot, and in a t-shirt. On the other side are those who contend it’s too early and that family members should dress warmly. So, who’s right?
This article will discuss when to turn on the heat in the fall. We’ll also cover how to maintain your HVAC system so it runs efficiently and economically.
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There is no definitive answer to when you should turn on your heat. It depends on your personal preference, health condition, and budget. However, some general guidelines can help you decide when to switch from cooling to heating mode.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the minimal indoor temperature for health and comfort is 64°F. Young children, older adults, and those with chronic health conditions are most sensitive to low temperatures. Prolonged exposure to cold indoor temperatures can cause health issues like increased blood pressure, asthma symptoms, and poor mental health.
In the U.S., according to a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, most households maintain a mean indoor temperature between 67.2 and 70 degrees.
Another factor to consider is the cost of heating your home, which varies by region and fuel type. Due to milder weather, forecasters expect lower heating prices for winter 2023-2024. The Energy Information Association predicts the average cost to heat a home in the U.S. with natural gas will be $600 this winter. Heating with electricity will cost $1,060.
It makes sense to delay turning on your heat as long as possible to save money and reduce your environmental impact. However, don’t wait so long that your home becomes unhealthy. A good rule of thumb is to wait until the clocks return at the end of October before turning on your heat. This way, you can take advantage of the natural sunlight and warmth during the day and avoid using unnecessary energy at night.
Before you turn on your heat for the first time this fall, there are some steps you should take to ensure that your HVAC system works properly and efficiently. Here are things you can do to get ready for the heating season:
- Clean or replace your air filters. Dirty or clogged air filters can reduce the airflow and efficiency of your HVAC system and affect indoor air quality. Check your air filters every month and clean or replace them as needed.
- Schedule a professional furnace inspection. A licensed technician can inspect, clean, and adjust the components of your system, such as the burners, blower motor, fan belt, thermostat, ductwork, and electrical connections. A tune-up can also improve the safety and efficiency of your system by ensuring that it operates optimally.
- Test your thermostat. Your thermostat is the control center of your HVAC system, so you want to ensure it works correctly and accurately. You can test your thermostat by setting it to a desired temperature and checking if your system responds accordingly. Consider upgrading to a programmable or smart thermostat that automatically adjusts the temperature based on your schedule and preferences.
- Use carbon monoxide detectors. Keep your family safe with carbon monoxide detectors. Test them periodically by pushing the test button to see if the alarm is sounding.
- Clear the area around the furnace. Keep flammable items like cardboard away from the heater. Also, clear any obstructions that may block or restrict the vents or registers.
Knowing when to turn on your heat and how to prepare your HVAC system allows you to enjoy a cozy home this fall and winter. But you don’t have to choose between comfort and cost savings. Keep your HVAC system maintained so it operates efficiently.
Consider replacing older systems over 10 years old or requiring frequent repairs. Energy Star HVAC systems can save 10 to 30 percent annually in energy costs.