When Should I Turn My Furnace On?

Furnace Maintenance


It is autumn! The leaves are turning fiery colors as the air grows colder. The squirrels are becoming increasingly frantic as their time to gather acorns runs out. The geese are saying “The heck with this!” and departing for sunny Mexico. And South Dakotans are contemplating turning their furnaces on.

When should you turn your furnace on? Good question. Naturally, if you feel cold inside your home, you should turn on the heat. No expert opinion overrides the importance of your own comfort.

That said, the general consensus is that you should turn on your furnace when the temperature in your home drops below 64 °F. If you would rather wait for a calendar day, then you can confidently start up your furnace at the end of daylight savings time, which falls on November 6th in 2022.

But hold on a second! You want to make sure your furnace is ready for the interminable Midwestern winter ahead before you turn it on for the first time this fall. Follow our fall furnace fire up checklist before you start hitting the up button on your thermostat. You’ll save money on heating costs and potentially avoid a costly repair down the road.

Fall Furnace Fire-Up Checklist

  1. Change the furnace’s filter. Changing your HVAC filter every 30 days (or less often, if you use high-quality HEPA filters) will make your furnace perform more efficiently. A dirty filter forces an HVAC system to use 15% more energy, and it also places greater strain on the system’s moving parts. Changing your HVAC filter before winter arrives will also ensure that you inhale less dust, dust mites, and the numerous other pollutants that aggregate in your home’s ventilation ducts.
  1. Switch the thermostat to “heat.” When your thermostat is in “heat” mode, it actively detects when the ambient temperature falls below the specified threshold. In other words, until you have flipped the switch to “heat,” your furnace won’t receive the crucial feedback it needs to turn on.
  1. Clean the burners. Dust is like gravity – it affects all things at all times, and your furnace’s burners (i.e. the mechanisms which actually produce heat) are no exception. Failing to clean your furnace’s burners is not the worst oversight you could commit, although you will detect the distinctively unpleasant aroma of burning dust the first few times the heat turns on. (Take care that the smells of ozone and burning plastic are both abnormal and could indicate immediate need for professional repair.)
  1. Oil the blower. The blower is an appropriately named device which blows hot air through your home’s ventilation ducts. Its motor requires yearly lubrication in order to function efficiently and reliably. Two to three drops of 10-weight nondetergent motor oil ought to do the trick.
  1. Ensure the vents are unobstructed. Simple enough: Just make certain none of your vents are blocked by area rugs, furniture, toys or other potential obstructions that could prevent heated air from fully accessing a room. Also take this time to move any things you have stored in your utility room safely away from your furnace. You shouldn’t store anything within 30″ of your furnace while it is in use.
  1. Clear the exhaust vent. Remember the squirrels we mentioned earlier? They may have chosen to store some of their acorns inside your exhaust vent. This is a great honor, but you cannot let acorns or any other type of debris obstruct the passage your furnace requires to safely divert toxic gasses away from your living space.
  1. Test the detectors. Speaking of toxic gasses, now is a great time to make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are both functioning correctly. Take care that carbon monoxide detectors expire after five years. It’s a good habit to replace them whenever you see the first presidential election campaign ad on TV.

No matter when you decide to turn your furnace on for the first time this year, you should always follow those seven simple steps first. You may not particularly want to learn how to clean your furnace’s burners or oil its blower, but if you live in the greater Sioux Falls, SD area you don’t have to. That’s because you can contact PrairieSons for all your fall HVAC maintenance needs! And if you ever need furnace repair, installation or replacement, we’re always standing by to be of outstanding service.