Have You Turned Your Furnance on Yet?

Snow 2 March 2009 004, originally uploaded by hipchickindc.

While the above photo was taken last March, it got pretty damn cold this weekend. So a reader sent in a great question that I enjoy wrestling with:

“Have you fired up your heat yet? I’m still holding out.”

I am sad to report that I did indeed fire up the heat this weekend. Though I only put the thermostat to 60 degrees… Are there any other holdouts or has everyone also fired up their heat after this weekend? For the hold outs – how cold does it have to get before you turn on the heat? And while we’re on the subject – what temperature do you put the thermostat to while you are home?

45 Comment

  • No heat yet. I’ve built a few fires though. I only turn on the heat when it’s so cold that I can’t comfortably sleep (no fireplace in my bedroom). Otherwise, I bundle up in front of the fire in flannel pjs and wool socks. My place is very expensive to heat (drafty windows and high ceilings) so I try to hold out as long as possible.

  • The advantage of living in a small rowhouse is that my neighbors help keep me warm. That, plus good insulation means that I won’t turn on my heat till January, or later. Or if the thermostat goes below 60 when I’m home.

    One year I didn’t turn it on at all – it was a mild winter and if it did get cold, I must’ve been out of town.

    So no, I didn’t turn my heat on this weekend.

  • Not yet. I refuse to turn on my heat this early. Plus I have been out of town in Maine – where it is really cold.

  • I did turn on my heat on Saturday, VERY begrudgingly!

  • Nicole, have you tried the plastic storm windows? In my house, with my beautiful original double hung true divide leaky-as-a-sieve windows, the plastic storms make a huge difference.

    Before putting them on (in winter) = ice inside my bedroom windows. After installation = no draft, no ice, much better. And seriously, once you put them on you won’t notice them.

    Get 3M, not Frost King.

  • turned on the heat yesterday, kids with sniffles. NG hedge at $.74/therm^3 @
    12 months tuned the system and fixed the h2o pressure to app 18psi. burnham 220. smooth quiet and sexy.

    wges has one year contract at aboout $0.77/therm^3, wash gas averages $1.05 therm^3, as of two weeks ago.

    Probably be doin the same for the nieghbors this week. I always write down the meter reading every october before turning the system on, with a sharpie on the wall next to the meter. tracks the usage and cost/therms.

    wrap your main pipes in the basement coming out of the unit in isulation, homey depot sells the tubes pre sized 4″ 2″. costs a few bucks ($50)but saves tons of cash. and anyone can wrap the pipes.

    if you dont have an electric thermostat get one now. you can manage your heating on a schedule, first thing i bought when i got the house 5 years ago. take control of your system, learn to love it. it will love you back.

    //5 years of trial and error.

  • // and dont forget to get half a case of super spray foam at homey depot. GAP i thin its called. take a lighter to find air holes and then fill them with spray foam. be psychotic about it and do it every year. I have dropped my heating bill by around $150 a month since the first year i bought the house. just have to get into every weird corner.
    ///free time + tools+ spray foam.

  • Last weekend, in a mountain rental, we were swimming in the Shenendoah on Friday then huddled by the fire on Saturday. And thinking a lot about how cold people must have been in old days, wearing only deer skins and having no iron axes to cut wood. And no wine or hot tub!

    Back home – got out the down comforter and long underwear, but not yet put up the winter draft curtains on the windows. Did turn on the heat, also the snake hot rocks, plugged in the dog bed heating pad and cleared the shoes off the shelf above the vent for the cat. And ate two mini Snickers bars out of the Halloween candy stash.

  • radiators are radiating. went back and forth with wife over setting thermostat at 68, 72, or somewhere in between.

  • Hold outs at our house. We refuse to turn the heat on this early. We have new windows so no drafts; the house actually stays fairly warm.

    We are planning to do a major insulation of the attic project before it gets really cold. Hopefully, it will help cut down on the heating bills.

  • like rg, two kids with sniffles/hacking cough trumps dad’s hardiness

  • Yes because we’re having the walls painted, and it was so cold that the paint wasn’t drying fast enough.

  • I usually wait until late Nov or early Dec, but I couldn’t take the cold and the dog was hogging the covers and sleeping way too close to me so I cranked up the heat.

    I usually set it to 65. I’m on the monthly plan with Wash Gas so I no longer feel the high cost of gas usage as I only pay about $55 a month all year long.

  • Its on, but only b/c we have little kids. If it was just us, no way the heat would be on. We never set it above 68.

  • Hold out? More like Hostage. My building still hasn’t switched to heating yet.


    On the bright side at least I’m not shocked by the cold outside because its almost as cold inside.

  • Exactly the same as Andy. The past few days I turned the heat up to 68 when I woke up and then when I started sweating, I’d go and turn it back down to 68 from my wife’s stealth change to 72. Wash, rinse, repeat.

  • We held out! I’m so proud of my roommates and I for bundling up instead of turning on the heat. I’m really looking forward to next month’s electric bill.

  • It is in the 40s outside. you’re nuts if you don’t have it on

  • Just curious, what kind of rates are you guys seeing for nat gas per therm?

  • We caved on Sunday. Set the thermostat to 67 or so during the day…

  • I just could not do it… I even had the windows open a crack for fresh air… but by Sunday afternoon, they had to close. No heat yet, it has to be bitter & in the 30s for that to happen. Besides, Hot Cocoa and Butterscotch Schnapps is a great way to keep the chill away!

  • Not yet! I was out of town this weekend with my heating/cooling set to off; when I came home, my studio was at 68F. Perfect, since that’s what I keep my A/C at during the summer!

    In the winter, when I actually do turn my heat on, I leave it at 62 during the day, and 66 at night, with it set to crank up to 70F at 7:00 am so I’ll wake up for work (can’t sleep if it’s hot!).

  • rg please post more often with info like that. great stuff!

  • I did, but mostly so the person living in my basement does not freeze. I also have a space heater in the bedroom. I haven’t put the fan away though because it’s supposed to be 70 this week!

    I didn’t immediately realize that was my pic at the top of the post so my first thought was “hey, I used to live in that bright blue house!” Now I live in a very similar house, but across the street.

  • lordscarlet

    We have a heat pump and have no problem turning it to heat early. We generally keep it about 70 degrees when we’re home, 65 when we’re not, 68 when asleep (programmable thermostat)

  • Yes, we have the heat on. We are next to a gutted house so we don’t have the cushion factor.

  • My building turned the heat on. Lucky me, I have an overly heated apartment, so even with all the radiators off I still had to crack the windows.

  • My building switched over to heat from a/c last week. It’s an older building and they can only run one or the other through the pipes. That said, the building is so well-insulated that we almost never have to turn on the heat. It stays a comfortable 68 degrees all winter long.

  • Yes, the heat is on – 68 degrees. Looking forward to the temps getting back up to 70 this week. Has anyone gotten a energy audit? http://ddoe.dc.gov/ddoe/cwp/view,a,1209,q,492761.asp

  • My heat is still off. The fat dog sleeps at my feet and keeps the bed nice and warm at night.

  • My little rowhouse stays warm most of the winter so I often don’t turn the heat on until January – or if the temp gets below 64 when I’m home. I second the recommendation to use the plastic storm windows – it makes a huge difference.

    gigglegirl, I had the ddoe energy audit last year & it was really useful. I’d recommend it.

  • I have a 2 level row house on Kenyon st. My upstairs stays nice and cozy, but my first level (which is ground level) is very hard to keep warm.

    I have a 3-4 ft crawl space under the main level. I was under there this summer and noticed that there is absolutely no insulation.

    I am wondering if insulating under the floor will make a big difference?

    Also, what type do you recommend?


  • Shocked at the many paupers and skinflints who would rather be cold than switch on that very modern of inventions: central heating. Bet it’s a barrel of laughs coming round to your hovel and having to bring a coat to stave off the cold.

  • I definitely had to turn the heat on late last week. With my 14 ft. ceilings, the heat goes straight up! Ugh. I try to keep the thermostat at 72 when I’m home, and between 62-65 when I’m away or at night.

  • normantown, it’s called energy conservation.

    I’m not poor, nor am I cheap. I haven’t turned my heat on because I’m not cold. Imagine that!

  • Oooh good topic: I live next to a gutted rowhouse in an apartment with tall ceilings and leaky windows. Although my landlady pays utitlites, I do care about conserving energy and have put some done some stuff to improve the leakiness of the windows (not enough…I’m not very handy, but I stuck some of that foamy tape where I found gaps and I’ve pointed out the deficiencies to my landlady to zero response). I wonder if it’s more energy-efficient to use a space-heater (I can only be in one room at a time anyway, and don’t mind moving the space-heater) when I’m at home reading/watching tv or if it’s better to have the thermostat set at a comfortable, steady temperature without using the space-heater. It seems like a waste to heat the entire apartment, but presumably space-heaters are energy-guzzlers too…

    I’d appreciate any advice – I have no idea what the heating costs must be since I don’t see the bills, but I’d like to be a good tenant and conserve energy if possible. But I don’t want to freeze.


  • Time to order a Snuggie (yuck! just kidding!) In Europe, where energy is more $$$, my brother said they would sit around playing cards with a space heater under the table and the rest of the house frigid. Everybody had down comforters and wore a wool hat to bed. My hubbie worked for a guy who imported extremely well made windows from a factory in Germany. We’re talking almost no heat loss, injected foam in the frame, vacumn sealed triple pane better insulated than your house wall construction. Which almost no one here will pay for, since builders and investors don’t care how much you’ll pay for heat and few Americans plan on keeping their house long enough to pay top $.

  • A trick I learned about steam radiator heating:

    Take a flat piece of cardboard (or anything rigid) and wrap it in aluminum foil, and place it between the wall and the radiator. It will radiate the heat from the backside of the radiator back into the room and improve your efficiency.

  • That’s a beatiful photo. I wish the parked cars weren’t there though.
    I’m in the process of getting ceiling insulation and new insulation on the back addition – we’ll see what a difference it makes this year.

  • ogden, I also learned that trick and think it helps.

    I also put water in a shallow take out container underneath (or in some cases, on top of) the radiator to combat dry air. Although I think in general radiators are much better than forced air heat.

    anon 12:41, there are space heaters that don’t suck energy. I think it better to warm the space you need.

  • DC20010 I feel your pain. First floor of a rowhouse, and it gets really drafty in here. We huddled around a space heater, portable radiator, and humidifier all weekend to stay warm. And drank lots of hot cider… would have liked to have heat, but apparently three requests to the landlord weren’t enough.

    Is there any kind of landlord-tenant protocol for that kind of thing? I assume that renters are at the mercy of our landlords here, but it’d sure be nice if we had a say in this sort of thing.

  • We turned on the heat this weekend because we were painting but found, to our annoyance, that the furnace has to be on ‘fan’ not ‘auto.’ So it kind of makes the whole programmable thermostat moot.

    My plan is next weekend to stop by Fragers and pick up weatherstripping for the doors and the clear plastic sheeting for our windows. They’re old, have no storms, and when I sit in front of them at night, I need a scarf to keep my neck warm. I’ll also ask the landlords if they have any suggestions for efficiency.

    Here’s a question for y’all: should you close the doors to each of the rooms or leave them open for circulation?

  • @ Jason 11:23 – you can use regular fiberglass bats of insulation, but if you are going to be in that house for a couple years, you might want to look into getting foam insulation blown in. It’s like the stuff in the can but obviously for large areas. It basically creates an air tight seal, which you can’t achieve with bats, plus if bats get wet they can have mold problems. Most of the foam insulation is mold resistant. It was several dollars a foot a couple years ago, not sure where the prices are now.

  • I wanted to so bad, but ever since environmentalism became in vogue, I can’t get away with using heating, cooling, lighting, or electricity in general without getting yelled at my the roomates. So it wasn’t worth the fight. But if I had been in charge, that puppy would have been BRING IN THE HEAT!

  • no heat. nope. it’s not cold yet. the coldest that my house got was 64 degrees and that’s not actually cold. wear socks, put on a sweater, do something that gets your blood moving (like cleaning the house), or curl up with a blanket and a book and you’ll be fine really.

    I don’t understand folks that are all about having A/C in the summer and turning on the heat at the first sign of sub-70 degree temps. Is there really only a window of 2-3 degrees that is acceptable without using climate control?

    We don’t use A/C (the hottest our house got all summer was 83) and we don’t turn on heat until the temp inside drops below 60 degrees — which hasn’t happened yet and probably won’t until at least November — and we’re still happy!

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