Home improvement: Furnace Q & A

Home improvement: Furnace Q & A

Don't let your furnace daunt you. See our answers to common questions.

1. How low can or should I set my thermostats at night or when I go away?

55° F to 58° F should be warm enough to keep anything from freezing, assuming the house is properly sealed.

2. How much difference does tuning up my system, replacing filters and the like make anyway? Is there a financial payback?

Think of it the way you might a car. Proper maintenance will extend the life of your heating system, and while you may need repairs along the way, preventative maintenance will help you avoid many of them. Plus it will keep your system running up to 30 percent more efficiently. With the price of heating fuel these days, your savings will almost surely offset the cost of the service call.

3. Can you heat the room any faster by turning the thermostat higher?

Alas, no. The thermostat just tells the heating unit when to start heating and when to shut off. The heat comes at the same rate whether you set it at 70 or 80. And worse, you’re liable to forget to reset it and end up with a hot room you have to cool off by opening a window, wasting that much more energy.

4. Is there an optimum temperature to keep your house in terms of health and comfort?

Experts suggest the optimum range is 68° F to 72° F during the day in winter, 55° F to 65° F at night. In terms of health, the relative humidity is even more important.

5. What's the best humidity setting for winter?

The more humidity in the room, the warmer it will feel. For instance, a room temperature of 70° F combined with humidity of 10 percent feels like 64° F, but at 80 percent humidity it feels like 71° F. You might use a humidifier to combat dry winter air, use less heat and still feel warm. But don’t go overboard; dust mites, mold and mildew thrive in humidity. Keep the humidity range between about 30 percent and 40 percent. And if you do use a humidifier, follow the cleaning instructions to avoid the growth of mold or bacteria.