The thought of your home heating system going down during the winter months probably sends chills down your spine. Those frigid winter months can be challenging enough even if your furnace is in perfect working order and your new pair of wool socks just arrived from Amazon (it’s easy to be a sucker for the lightning deals).

While you might not even want to think about your heat going out, it’s important to be prepared for a worst-case scenario, even if it feels like you’re preparing for the apocalypse.

With that in mind, we’ve outlined seven steps to take if your gas home heating system fails when you need it most, as well as answers to common heat-related search terms like “What to set heat to in winter.”

What Is the Best Temperature for Heater in Winter?
Generally, experts recommend that you set your thermostat to 68 degrees Fahrenheit when outdoor temperatures begin to drop.

When you leave your home, you can set your temperature a few degrees lower to save energy, but avoid setting your thermostat too low, as your furnace will have to work extra hard to reheat your home.

7 Steps to Stay Safe When Your Furnace Fails
Here’s how to respond if your home heating system fails unexpectedly.

  1. Shut Off Your Gas
    If you currently rely on oil, propane, or natural gas to heat your home, you should first shut off the fuel supply when your system fails. Turning off the gas supply will help protect you from explosions, fires, or carbon monoxide poisoning. CO poisoning alone sends approximately 50,000 Americans to the emergency room every year.
  2. Try a Few Quick Fixes
    First, ensure your thermostat is working properly and the batteries haven’t died. Assuming it’s operational, check your breaker to see if it’s been tripped. Resetting it might get the heat flowing again. Keep in mind that this will only address direct heat system failures. If the failure was caused by another event, such as a power outage, you should follow these additional safety tips.
  3. Call a Professional
    If you fail at troubleshooting your heating woes, it’s time to dial the experts. A professional HVAC company will be able to diagnose the issue and provide you with a quote for repairs.
  4. Keep Doors and Windows Shut
    While waiting for the pros to arrive, keep your doors and windows shut to retain as much heat as possible. If you have to open an exterior door, close it again quickly to prevent precious warmth from escaping.
  5. Use a Portable Heater or Fireplace
    If you own a fireplace or portable heater, get it running. Make sure the vent shaft is open if you’re using a fireplace to keep warm and avoid overloading it in an effort to turn up the heat faster.
  6. Layer Up
    There’s a chance you may be forced to go without your furnace for a while. If that’s the case, it can help to layer up with comfortable clothes that will keep you warm until your heating system is working again. If you’re a California transplant who can’t brave the heat, checking into a hotel will do.
  7. Eat a Hot Meal
    Eating a warm meal can help you feel warmer while you wait for the professionals to fix your heating system. You can finally have an excuse to chug an oversized mug of hot cocoa or a spiced apple hot toddy to make the day a little easier (it’s 5 o’clock somewhere!).

Bonus Tip: Plan Ahead and Stay Safe
The best way to avoid a gas home heating system failure is to be proactive about furnace maintenance. Connect with a professional HVAC company to ensure your furnace is pumping out plenty of heat before the winter freeze begins.

Ideally, you should schedule your maintenance for early in the fall. If you wait until the height of winter, your furnace might already be working overtime just to keep your home comfortable. And no one, even your furnace, wants to work overtime during the winter break.

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