Heating pad for starting seeds
Do you think they're necessary? Could I muddle along just fine without one? I live in Connecticut where it's currently 38 degrees, and we keep the house pretty cold, 62 when we're here, 60 when we're out.
I have used bottom heat for seed germination and early growing for some years for plants that like warm soil for germination. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra and basil benefit greatly from bottom heat and can be started later than when relying on room temperature. These plants are really helped by fast growth and tend to be stockier when grown under lights with bottom heat.
If you use bottom heat for germination, cover your starting trays with clear plastic to hold in moisture and heat until the seeds come up. I have lids that match the trays I use, but plastic wrap placed over the trays will work. Check at least twice a day for emergence so the plants can be put in light as soon as possible.
My setup has fluorescent lights hanging on chains above the mats to allow easy adjustment of light intensity. Some seeds such as basil require light to germinate but otherwise wait to turn the lights on until the first seed leaves appear.
You can start seeds without heat mats, but they are a great help.
Here is a handy chart that shows percentage and time for germination at various temperatures.
I have a hard time avoiding it myself sometimes but I have found little reward over the years in rushing the season. That is in Georgia, I understand that things may be completely different in Connecticut.