Across the U.S., temperatures are cooling down and homes are heating up. Another thing on the rise is the household natural gas bill.
The U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA) estimates that 47% of U.S. homes use natural gas as their primary heating source. It’s the most prevalent means of heating everywhere except the southeast where electric reigns supreme. In 2017 this number worked out to be 69,041,815 residential natural gas consumers. That means millions of households can benefit from understanding what increases their natural gas bill in the winter and how to control the cost despite the cold.The primary reason the cost of natural gas goes up in the winter is because that’s when we use energy to keep warm. But what exactly causes the BTUs to add up? Here are five reasons you’re seeing an increase in your natural gas bill and what you can do about it.
It’s Getting Hot in Here
Space heating is the#1 natural gas use in homes. So it’s only logical that in the winter when more heat is needed to keep things comfortably toasty inside the natural gas bill will get larger. But you could be using more natural gas than needed and paying higher bills, due to other things around the home.
What you can do to control natural gas space heating costs:
• Weatherproof around the doors and windows if you haven’t yet. This will prevent air leaks that allow warm air to escape and waste energy.
• Put your programmable thermostat to good use by setting it to keep the inside temperature lower (below 68°F) when no one is home and while you’re asleep.
• If you don’t have a low-voltage programmable thermostat get one.
• Keep furnace filters clean.
• Bundle up in sweaters and blankets instead of bumping the temperature up.
• Close the vents to rooms that are rarely used.
• Add insulation in the attic and crawl spaces if what’s currently there is old or inadequate.
• Keep the curtains drawn. There’s less hours of sunlight anyway, and according to Popular Mechanics keeping windows covered can reduce heat loss by as much as 25%.
• Check your air ducts for leaks. Leaky ducts can increase heating costs by 10-30%.
• Get your gas heater serviced at least once every two years.
Firing Up Those Natural Gas Fireplaces
The EIA’s research also revealed that 37% of homes use a secondary heating source outside of a furnace or central heating system during the cold months of winter. One of the most popular secondary heating sources is a fireplace. If you have a natural gas fireplace this could be another factor for your higher bill.
What you can do to control natural gas fireplace heating costs:
• If you have a fireplace that is also wood-burning skip the natural gas and heat things up the old school way.
• Don’t forget to close the flue after using the fireplace. Leaving it open will let a lot of hot air escape and require your furnace to work harder to heat the house.
• Only run a gas fireplace when you are in the room. This is a matter of safety and gives you the biggest benefit in terms of warmth.
A Penchant for Hearty Warm Foods During the Winter
In the winter we indulge and warm up with a variety of warm foods and beverages. We can already smell the chili cooking on the stove top. Cooking is the third most common use for natural gas, and there are a few bad habits that can make home-cooked meals more expensive.
What you can do to control natural gas cooking costs:
• Break out the crockpot. There are a lot of meals you can cook in this electric device instead of the stove.
• Use the toaster oven for small items instead of your large oven that takes more energy to heat up.
• Use the correct size pots on the stove top. Using pots that are too small for the burner will cause heat to escape up around the pot, which is a waste of energy.
• Replace old ovens with more energy efficient models.
Warming Up With a Long, Hot Shower
Nothing feels better on a cold evening than stepping into a hot shower. When you’re chilled to the bone it can be very revitalizing, and the steam can also help relieve congestion. However, your natural gas bill might put a damper on that warm and fuzzy feeling. Water heating uses almost as much natural gas as space heating during the year.
What you can do to control natural gas water heating costs:
• Limit your shower time to no more than 15 minutes. We know it’s hard to put a stopper on a relaxing warm shower but limiting it will help reduce your natural gas and water bill.
• Check the temperature setting on your water heater. Knock it down to 120 degrees if it’s set higher.
• Don’t turn on the overhead vent. Let the steam build up so it stays warm in the bathroom after you turn off the water.
Increased Dryer Use
One use of natural gas that many people don’t think about clothes drying. During the spring, summer, and fall you’re more likely to let Mother Nature dry your clothes the cheap and old-fashioned way. But when the temperatures are hovering around the freezing point or not much higher drying clothes on a line isn’t very practical.
What you can do to control natural gas dryer costs:
• Only dry full loads, but don’t overstuff the dryer. When the dryer is too full it can actually increase the drying time.
• Make sure the moisture sensor is working properly to automatically turn the machine off when everything is dry and cut costs by 15%.
• Clean out the lint filter before every use so that air circulates better.
• Dry heavy clothes and bedding separate from light materials that take a lot less time to dry.
• Adjust the heat to a lower setting for longer dry times.
• Do dryer loads one after the other to make use of the warmth from the previous load.
We hope this helps you during these cold winter temperatures!