8 Steps to Comfort: What to Do Before Turning on the Heat

Conroy Baltimore
Written by Conroy Baltimore
Updated April 14, 2022
A family enjoying a meal together
Photo: Geber86 / E+ / Getty Images


  • Blocking vents creates a fire hazard.

  • Furnace maintenance costs $50 to $100.

  • Quick temperature changes put unnecessary strain on your furnace.

  • Furnace repairs cost between $130 and $1,200.

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Oh, winter—the season that signals the holidays are near. We bundle up in our hats and scarves, drink warm beverages, and try and build snowmen (if there’s enough snow available). We also prioritize staying warm by cranking up the heat in our homes. However, before turning on your heater for the first time this winter, here are a few things to do.

1. Change Your Furnace Filter

Air filters are like the backbone of your HVAC unit. As air blows through your home, filters keep you from inhaling dust or debris. Your furnace has sat unused all summer, so the filter might be dirty.

Take the opportunity to change your existing furnace filter before turning on your furnace for the first time this season. It’ll keep your home’s air quality levels high and reduce stress on your system. 

2. Clear Vent Obstructions

If you rearranged your furniture during spring cleaning or for a large summer party, the new arrangements could be blocking your vents.

Before turning on your furnace, clear away any obstructions blocking the vents. When they’re covered, your home won’t warm up the way it should, and anything nearby could create a fire hazard.

3. Do a Practice Run

Furnaces are like track athletes—they need a few practice runs before the main event. You don't want winter to be the first time you fire up the unit. Furnaces require a bit of a heads up that they’ll be called from the bench as colder weather approaches. 

Schedule some time before a cold front hits to test your furnace. Leave it on for a few minutes to gauge its functionality. If you hear any weird noises or smell something funky, you should turn it off immediately and contact a local furnace repair company.

4. Slowly Transition to Warmer Temperatures

A woman turning off AC
Photo: rh2010 / Adobe Stock

A mistake some homeowners make when turning on a heater after a long time is instantly switching from cooler to warmer temperatures. This is a big no-no because it puts unnecessary strain on your furnace. As a result, you may be looking at $130 to $1200 expense—the average cost of furnace repairs.

When temperatures start dropping, turn off your AC without putting the heat on. Once it gets colder, turn the furnace on to a lower temperature to ease heat into your home. Then, slowly raise the temperature according to your desired comfort level.

5. Prep Your Home

It’s strange to walk past a closed window or door and feel a draft. What’s even weirder is looking at your monthly electric bill and wondering why it's so high. Unfortunately, poor (or a lack of) insulation allows heat to leak from your home and can increase your energy bills.

Prep your home for colder weather by sealing any problem areas. According to the Department of Energy, updating your insulation can cut your heating costs by 15% since your system isn’t working twice as hard to meet your demands.

6. Check Your Carbon Monoxide Alarm

Carbon monoxide is an odorless and lethal gas that can be dangerous to your family. Since your heating system will run for an extended period, it's essential to have a working carbon monoxide alarm in your home. They can detect any abnormalities in the air if your furnace releases toxic fumes.

Turn on the alarm to see if it’s functioning correctly. If there’s no response, you may need to get a new one. Another issue could be the batteries, so you’ll need to replace them if necessary.

7. Clean the Burners

During summertime, your AC unit shines. But while your furnace waits in the wings for its own time to thrive, the burners collect dust, which affects your furnace’s lifespan. Cleaning your burners should be a part of your furnace maintenance checklist. Before turning on your furnace for the first time this season, give them a quick clean. 

Turn off the furnace and the gas valve for safety and wipe down the burners with a cloth or vacuum. Also, keep an eye out for rusty parts that could hinder your system’s performance. 

8. Schedule Furnace Maintenance

Although you may do an excellent job caring for your furnace, you may miss a few underlying issues that only professionals can identify. To prolong your system's lifespan, you should schedule furnace maintenance at least once a year.

On average, it costs $50 to $100 to have your furnace serviced. Consistent maintenance will keep repair costs down and your family toasty during the winter.

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