A natural gas furnace is the most efficient way to heat your home, particularly if you live in a cool climate. However, Reuters says the cost of natural gas is anticipated to rise significantly during the winter heating season. Find out why the price of natural gas is going up and how to save on gas heating bills this year.
Why Is Natural Gas Going Up?
Each year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) produces a winter fuel outlook. Energy costs have previously gone up around the world, according to Reuters. This is because the demand for energy is now higher than the available supply.
How More Expensive Natural Gas Prices Will Affect You
Higher natural gas prices will impact you as you turn on your heating system and get utility bills. Here's about how much it will impact the average household during the six-month winter heating season, in contrast to last year.
- Average heating bill for 2020 season: $573, or about $95.50 monthly.
- Average heating bill for 2021 season: $746, or about $124.33 monthly. That's about a 30% increase from the previous year.
4 Tips for Saving on Heating Costs
In comparison to other fuel sources, a natural gas heating system is still the cheapest and most efficient way to heat your home. And there are a few things you can do to keep your heating costs down this winter. Here's how you can save on your gas heating bill.
1. Schedule a Furnace Tune-Up
Schedule furnace maintenance from an HVAC professional before the heating season begins. You'll get greater efficiency and it's cheaper than fixing your heating system later on in the year.
This service includes:
- Testing and cleaning gas burners for proper operation.
- Checking the heat exchanger for cracks to avoid deadly carbon monoxide leaks.
- Monitoring warm air flow and blower operation to ensure peak performance.
- Examining the gas valve to make sure fuel supply pressure is right.
- Checking electrical parts for problems.
- Checking your thermostat to make sure it’s working right.
Having your HVAC system maintained each year helps manage energy use, decreases the likelihood of breakdowns and may even make your heating system last longer. Plus, most manufacturers require it to keep your valuable warranty applicable. This warranty shields you if a major component, such as the heat exchanger, breaks on your home's heating system during a specific period.
We know you're busy and that it's easy to forget about scheduling your furnace tune-ups. That's why we provide membership programs designed to make your life easier while helping you save money.
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- Lifetime thermostat warranty
- Home Health Report Card and 29-point visual check on each visit
2. Get a Smart Thermostat
HVAC professionals advise updating your programmable thermostat with one that's "smart" to save money on your energy bill. This means it uses Wi-Fi, so you can regulate your HVAC system from your smartphone or tablet from bed in the morning, or just about anyplace in the world. You'll get real-time updates on how much energy you're using.
The best smart thermostats for central heating have:
- Wi-Fi capability with an app to control it from a smartphone or computer.
- A color screen that displays the current temperature and humidity levels at home, as well as outside weather forecasts so you can adjust accordingly.
- Eco mode settings that automatically adjust the thermostat to save you more money.
- Smart programming that makes an energy-efficient heating schedule based on your temperature preferences.
Your energy company likely has valuable rebates for adding a smart thermostat, since they're ENERGY STAR® qualified. These rebates may cover a portion or even the full cost of the thermostat, so check with your natural gas supplier before you purchase one.
3. Select Energy-Efficient Thermostat Settings
Your smart thermostat will take care of making an efficient schedule that likely reduces your heating bill, but you'll need to set it for a few days so it can learn your temperature preferences. We suggest using these winter thermostat settings from the U.S. Department of Energy and ENERGY STAR.
When You're at Home
Your thermostat should be set to 68 degrees for maximum energy savings. If this feels too cold, these ways to save can help keep your home feeling warmer and your heating bill in check:
- Use window treatments that block heat loss, like as honeycomb shades, plantation shutters or window blankets, which are thick quilts.
- Open south-facing window treatments during the day to let in natural heat from the sun. Keep your windows covered at night to keep out cold air.
- Cover drafty windows with plastic sheeting to stop air leaks. Consider getting energy-saving windows in the future, like double pane with insulating gas or triple pane.
- Set ceiling fans to counterclockwise so they can disperse warm air that collects near the ceiling.
- Have an HVAC professional seal heating ducts. This is often done through adding metallic tape on gaps and helps you retain more hot air from your heating system.
- Add weather stripping on windows and doors. Weather stripping is very good at preventing cold air drafts and keeping warm air where it belongs.
- Make sure heating vents are open. Closing vents in rooms you don't use is a bad idea since it can impact air balance and make your furnace work harder. Also, try not to block vents as this affects how heating systems distribute warm air.
- Consider adding more ceiling insulation, since your home loses a lot of hot air through the attic.
- Schedule an energy audit through your natural gas company. This service is usually free and offers valuable advice on how to save money and lower your heating bill. It may help you determine how much insulation you need to add, pinpoint air leaks and more.
While You're Sleeping
The National Sleep Foundation says most people do best in a cool room. During the winter, that can range from 60-67 degrees, depending on your personal preferences.
Try experimenting with your thermostat for about a week to find the right temperature. Start with the temperature set at 67 degrees and lowering it by a degree every evening. You may feel cold initially, but you'll likely be surprised how comfy you can be at a cooler temperature. And how much it can impact your heating bill!
While You're Away
If you don't have any pets, you can turn down your thermostat as low as 50 degrees. This keeps your heating system operating and your pipes from icing. But don't be tempted to jack up your furnace when you get back, instead of switching it back to 68. This won't heat your home up faster. It'll just drive up your heating bill and result in wear and tear on your furnace.
If you have pets, you can use the Department of Energy’s recommendation to turn your thermostat back 7-10 degrees while you're away. Doing this while you're at the office can save you up to 10% on heating bills each year.
4. Get a New Furnace
Updating your old, inefficient heating system is one of the smartest ways to save on heating bills. A furnace's efficiency is calculated in AFUE, or Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency. In other words, this rating measures how efficiently your furnace uses fuel for heat.
Newer furnaces have an average AFUE of 95%, while older models only achieve around 80%. Getting a new furnace that's 15% more efficient can lead to major savings on your heating bills over your furnace's life. While your exact utility bill savings will vary based on local weather and your temperature preferences, these cost savings could help your primary heating source pay for itself in time through a cheaper natural gas bill.
When to Begin Considering Furnace Installation
Here are a few other signs that it's time to begin considering furnace installation:
- Age. Most furnaces last between 15-20 years with adequate maintenance. If yours is near this age, you should begin planning for replacement to avoid being without heat when your furnace breaks down for good.
- Repair frequency and price. If your furnace repair bills are greater than half the cost of a new system, we suggest getting a new one. This also applies if repairs are becoming more consistent.
- Decreased comfort and more expensive heating bills. As your furnace gets older, it needs more energy. You'll see this through your home being less comfortable and your heating bill being more expensive.
- Odd noises. It's typical for your furnace to make some noise as it turns on and off. But some sounds, specifically rattling, banging or screeching, are an obvious sign that something's awry. Based on the severity of the issue, it may just be better to get a new furnace.
- Yellow burner flames. Your furnace's burner flames should always be blue. Yellow flames mean your furnace is consuming more gas and may even be producing carbon monoxide, which can be fatal in big doses. Furnaces leaking this deadly gas should be taken out right away.
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- No trip or overtime charges—ever
- Repairs, labor, parts and air filters at no added charge*
- 15% discount on air purification products
- Lifetime thermostat warranty
- Home Health™ Report Card and 29-point visual check on every visit
- Annual preventive maintenance and energy savings up to 30%**
Save More on Heating Costs with A-PLUS Service Experts
Although natural gas prices are going up, there are many ways to lower your heating bill with our Expert assistance. To get started, contact us at 301-747-3140 for an appointment and we'll take a look at what you can do to spend less money this winter!
*For HVAC Service Memberships, certain warranty exclusions and limitations apply. See your signed agreement for full terms and conditions. For the Advantage Program™, please see your signed Advantage Program Agreement for full details and exclusions. Lease with approved credit; visit ServiceExperts.com for details. **Potential savings may vary depending on age and condition of equipment, personal lifestyle, system settings, equipment maintenance, and installation of equipment and duct system.