The furnace is responsible for providing the warm, cozy atmosphere in your home during the winter. But as summer looms on the horizon, you have to wonder: Should you turn off your furnace over the warmer months?

The short answer is, it depends.

A traditional oil furnace is designed to burn for 365 days a year. If you live in a place where it’s chilly in the evening, you might consider leaving the furnace on even during the intense summer months. Keep in mind the furnace will still burn fuel even if the thermostat is turned off. This is due to the operation of the pilot light. The pilot light is an eternal flame that is constantly lit — until you turn it off, of course.

Will I Save Money If I Turn Off the Pilot Light?

The burning pilot light will cost around 8 to 10 cents each day. It doesn’t sound like much, but these numbers add up over the months and years.

You should also consider the air conditioner in your home. It needs to work harder to counteract the heat of a burning pilot light, resulting in higher energy bills and less money in your wallet.

How Do I Know If My Furnace Has a Pilot Light?

Modern furnaces are equipped with an electronically-controlled ignition that negates the use of a constantly-on pilot light.

The easiest way to determine if your furnace is equipped with a pilot light is to inspect the control knob on the furnace. This control panel is usually located inside the furnace cabinet.

If the control knob has a “PILOT” position, then your furnace has a pilot light.

How Do I Turn It Off?

This depends on the make and model of the furnace. Typically, you can just rotate the knob to the “OFF” position. On some furnaces, turning off the pilot light demands a twist of a valve handle. When in doubt, always consult the operation manual of your furnace.

How Do I Re-ignite the Pilot Light?

In most cases, you only need to press a button to create a spark to re-ignite the pilot flame. Older furnaces will require turning the valve to the “PILOT” position and using a lighter to ignite the pilot light.

Before You Turn Off the Pilot Light

Before putting your furnace into hibernation mode, remember to do the following tasks:

  • Change the air filter. Clogged dirt can be a problem for some furnaces.
  • Clean the furnace. Grab a vacuum cleaner and suck out all debris from the furnace. It is also a good idea to clean the floor vents and ducts.
  • Consult a professional HVAC specialist. It helps to consult the services of an expert who will check the safety controls and calibrate the thermostat of your furnace.

Should you turn off the furnace when summer kicks in? Probably. But before you do, make sure to have the furnace inspected by a professional to make sure your home is ready to cope with different weather conditions.
Photo credit: Amy Elizabeth West