If you've opened up your utility bills and are wondering, "Why is my gas bill so high?" The answer to that question may vary somewhat based on your location or utility provider. But the primary reason is simple: worldwide demand for natural gas is up, and that means natural gas prices are up. In the U.S., a railroad labor shortage has led to a decrease in coal use and a corresponding increase in natural gas use, also contributing to higher gas prices. In addition, some utility companies had to buy more natural gas to deal with severe winter events in 2021, and the cost for that gas is passed on to consumers.
As a gas utility customer, there's nothing you can do to lower the price of gas itself, but you can always try to use less gas to lower your heating bills. The first thing to focus on is heating because it accounts for almost half of your home's energy use (if you use gas for heat). Next up is water heating, which accounts for about 19 percent in the average home. Other gas appliances, such as gas stoves, dryers, heaters, and grills, use relatively little gas, but you can still save money by limiting their use, at least while gas prices are sky-high.
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Here are some strategic ways to cut back on gas consumption to lower your natural gas bill:
1. Adjust Your Thermostats Settings
Keeping a steady, comfortable temperature can be a good idea for those who work from home or those who are retired. If you go off to work or play for an eight-hour period daily, however, it might be a good idea to turn the temperature down and save a few dollars on your heating costs.
The setting is much like any other personal thing in life. Some people enjoy 62 degrees and wear comfortable, warm pajamas. Others like 72 degrees and wearing hardly any clothing at all. To each their own, but the heating bill is directly affected by this personal decision. It is safe to say that higher temperature settings equals higher bills.
If you normally set your thermostat at 72 degrees, try lowering it to 68 degrees. This slight decrease in temperature can save money without decreasing comfort too much. Studies have shown that every degree lowered can save as much as 1 to 3 percent on your heating bill, depending on the fuel you use for heating your home. A lower temperature also helps add life to your heating system by reducing the amount of cycles the system runs. This can also save money on the electricity required to run a heating appliance.
Here's where the real thermostat questions come up. How much should you turn down a programmable thermostat? Turn down your thermostat 7 to 10 degrees for an eight-hour period. This lowered setting can gain you around a 10 percent savings on your heating bill.
2. Get a Better Thermostat
Thermostats have evolved from simple temperature-sensitive switches into computerized comfort control devices. The latest devices are, of course, smart thermostats. Some smart thermostats have the capability of linking to your cellphone and know when you have left for the day and when you return. While you are away, the temperatures will be lowered with recovery times accounted for (therefore lowering your bill). This technology is known as geofencing, and it has turned a simple programmable thermostat into a comfort-controlling computer. Smart thermostats also have the capability of monitoring the home's temperature while you are away and can even email you and others, such as your HVAC company.
If you've recently started working from home (or retired), this may be a plausible reason why your gas bill has jumped — you're likely spending more to make your home comfortable throughout the day.
3. Get a Home Energy Audit
You might not even be realizing where there are inefficiencies in your household — therefore contributing to a higher gas bill than you'd like. To remedy that, you can get a home energy audit or assessment. Some states even offer free or low-cost services provided by a local company that specializes in the process. These professionals will come to your home and look at issues that will help you save money on your energy bill, including your heating bill.
Sure, the homeowner can caulk around windows and doors, seal electrical outlets, and even add insulation in the attic, but professionals may go a lot deeper while performing an energy audit because of some special tooling. One tool that could be important to solving your high monthly bill is a blower door test. This test uses an industrial fan that pressurizes the house with air from outside to see how much loss the home has. Think of your house as a balloon; the air in the balloon is conditioned air that you paid for. You would want to keep as much of that air (in this case warm air) in your balloon as possible. The professional will find the leaks and seal them or make suggestions to help keep the conditioned air in the home.
4. Upgrade Heating Appliances
There are a few actions you can take to help reduce your heating bill. First, you should have your gas heating system serviced regularly. Many people do not realize that gas systems need to be serviced just as much as any other fuel or electric heating system. Beyond getting your equipment looked at by a professional, simply changing the air filter can reduce your energy bill.
But the next step is to take a look at the equipment itself. Upgrading the gas heating with a higher-efficiency system can really help to reduce your heating bill, in some cases as high as 30 percent. For example, if your heating appliance has a pilot light that needs to be relit on occasion, then it's a sign that the heating appliance is outdated. Most newer appliances have electronic ignition and do not require a pilot to be lit. A standing pilot can affect your heating bill by as much as $24 per month depending on your specific gas or gas rate.
If you have a hydronic (hot water) heating system, today's smaller boilers have more energy efficiency and can save a tremendous amount of money on your heating bill. The low volume of water in the system with a higher output makes for a large savings over the older boilers that need to heat up a larger mass of water to heat your home. Many of these boilers can even be responsive to outdoor temperatures to add to the heating bill savings. (Think about a pasta pot and a tea pot. Which one will heat up quicker?)
Technology in forced-air heating appliances, such as furnaces, has also increased with the use of smarter motors and controls. These motors and controls work in harmony, controlling the temperature of the air as well as softly starting motors. These components decrease your high energy bill as a whole, not just your heating bill.
Either type of heating system has technology that has increased beyond what originated in New York in 1825. In that year, the first industrialized hole was drilled to harness natural gas for cooking. We have come a long way since then and need to preserve the precious gift of warmth.
If you'd like to eliminate your gas bill altogether, the Inflation Reduction Act provides consumers with rebates and tax deductions for upgrading their systems from gas to electric.
5. Lower Your Water Heater Temperature
Though we all love a really hot shower, especially in the colder months, there is likely room to turn down the heat. If your water heater is gas, turn down the temperature to save on your gas bill. The savings from 140-degree to 120-degree water temperature is about 10 percent — about 5 percent per 10 degrees. (Ideal settings are around 115 to 120 degrees.)
Many conventional water heaters have standing gas pilots that keep a small gas flame burning at all times, however technology has come a long way in the water heater industry. Upgrading to on-demand water heaters and direct-spark ignition might just be another option in saving on your gas bill.
6. Use Less Hot Water
There are few simple ways to reduce hot water use — and the less water you have flowing through the water heater, the bigger the savings. Here are a few ideas on how to lower your user of hot water in the household:
- Install low-flow aerators on bathroom faucets.
- Switch to a low-flow showerhead and take shorter showers.
- Take showers instead of baths.
- Wash clothes in warm or cold water (when appropriate for the clothing) instead of hot.
- Always use a cold-water rinse in the washer, and wash only full loads.
- Rinse dishes in cold water before loading them into the dishwasher.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration suggests that we may only have about 98 years of recoverable natural gas reserves. Addressing high gas bills now not only helps save money but might just add some time to our depleting precious reserves.