A natural gas furnace is the most cost-effective way to heat your home, particularly if you live in a cold climate. However, Reuters reports the price 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 globally, according to Reuters. This is because the need for energy is now greater than the available supply.
How Higher Natural Gas Prices Will Affect You
Higher natural gas prices will impact you as you turn on your heating system and receive utility bills. Here's about how much it will affect 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 last year.
4 Secrets for Saving on Heating Costs
Compared 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 affordable this winter. Here's how you can spend less on your gas heating bill.
1. Schedule a Furnace Tune-Up
Request furnace maintenance from an HVAC professional before the heating season starts. You'll get greater efficiency and it's cheaper than repairing your heating system later on in the year.
This service consists of:
- Testing and cleaning gas burners for correct operation.
- Checking the heat exchanger for cracks to prevent dangerous carbon monoxide leaks.
- Tracking warm air flow and blower operation to ensure peak performance.
- Inspecting the gas valve to ensure fuel supply pressure is correct.
- Inspecting electrical parts for damage.
- Taking a look at your thermostat to make sure it’s working correctly.
Having your HVAC system serviced each year helps manage energy use, reduces the likelihood of breakdowns and may even make your heating system last longer. Plus, most manufacturers require it to keep your valuable warranty valid. This warranty shields you if a major component, like 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 overlook scheduling your furnace tune-ups. That's why we offer membership programs created to make your life easier while helping you save money.
With our best-value Maintenance+™, you'll receive regular preventive maintenance plus:
- Energy savings up to 30%**
- Guaranteed 24/7/365 priority service
- No trip or overtime costs—ever
- 15% discount on repairs and air purification products
- 100% guarantee on repairs for one year*
- Lifetime thermostat warranty
- Home Health Report Card and 29-point visual check on each visit
For the greatest peace of mind, there's Armor+™. This plan provides all the benefits of Maintenance+, in addition to:
- 100% parts and labor coverage for repairs*
- Air filter replacement
2. Install a Smart Thermostat
HVAC professionals recommend replacing 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 when you wake up, or just about anywhere 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 manage it from a smartphone or computer.
- A color screen that shows the current temperature and humidity levels at home, as well as outside weather forecasts so you can adapt accordingly.
- Eco mode settings that automatically set the thermostat to save you more money.
- Smart programming that creates 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 contact your natural gas supplier before you buy one.
3. Select Energy-Efficient Thermostat Settings
Your smart thermostat will take care of creating an efficient schedule that potentially lowers your heating bill, but you'll need to program it for a few days so it can pick up on 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 chilly, 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 daytime 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 upgrading to energy-saving windows later on, such as double pane with insulating gas or triple pane.
- Set ceiling fans to reverse so they can disperse warm air that gathers near the ceiling.
- Have an HVAC professional seal heating ducts. This is often done through adding metallic tape on gaps and helps you keep more hot air from your heating system.
- Add weather stripping on windows and doors. Weather stripping is great at preventing cold air drafts and keeping warm air where it should be.
- Make sure heating vents are unrestricted. Closing vents in rooms you don't use is a bad idea since it can affect air balance and make your furnace work harder. Also, try not to block vents as this impacts 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 identify how much insulation you need to add, pinpoint air leaks and more.
While You're Sleeping
The National Sleep Foundation says most people sleep best in a cold room. During the winter, that can vary from 60-67 degrees, depending on your personal preferences.
Try experimenting with your thermostat for about a week to find the ideal temperature. Start with the temperature set at 67 degrees and decreasing it by a degree every evening. You may feel chilly initially, but you'll probably be surprised how comfy you can be at a cooler temperature. And how much it can impact your heating bill!
While You're Gone
If you don't have any pets, you can set your thermostat as cool as 50 degrees. This keeps your heating system running and your pipes from icing. But don't be tempted to crank up your furnace when you return, instead of setting it back to 68. This won't heat your home up quicker. 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 gone. Doing this while you're at the office can save you up to 10% on heating bills every year.
4. Get a New Furnace
Replacing 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.
Modern furnaces have an average AFUE of 95%, while old models only achieve around 80%. Getting a new furnace that's 15% more efficient can result in major savings on your heating bills over your furnace's lifetime. While your exact utility bill savings will vary based on area weather and your temperature preferences, these savings could help your primary heating source pay for itself over time through a cheaper natural gas bill.
When to Start Considering Furnace Installation
Here are a few other signs that it's time to begin thinking about furnace installation:
- Age. Most furnaces last between 15-20 years with proper maintenance. If yours is close to this age, you should start preparation for replacement to prevent being without heat when your furnace breaks down for good.
- Repair frequency and price. If your furnace repair bills are greater than half the price of a new system, we suggest getting a new one. This also applies if repairs are becoming more frequent.
- Decreased comfort and pricey heating bills. As your furnace ages, it needs more energy. You'll see this through your home being less cozy and your heating bill being more expensive.
- Weird noises. It's normal for your furnace to make some sound as it turns on and off. But some noises, specifically rattling, banging or screeching, are a clear sign that something's awry. Based on the severity of the issue, it may just be better to buy a new furnace.
- Yellow burner flames. Your furnace's burner flames should always be blue. Yellow flames mean your furnace is using more gas and may even be producing carbon monoxide, which can be dangerous in large doses. Furnaces leaking this life-threatening gas should be replaced right away.
We realize that furnace replacement is a major investment. It can also be a shock that you're not completely ready for. That's why we offer the Service Experts Advantage Program™. This stress-free subscription program is changing home comfort by covering everything, with no large up-front cost or down payment needed.
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- A new, high-efficiency furnace, as well as valuable manufacturer's rebates
- Expert installation at no extra cost
- Guaranteed 24/7/365 priority service
- No trip or overtime charges—ever
- Repairs, labor, parts and air filters at no extra charge*
- 15% discount on air purification products
- Lifetime thermostat warranty
- Home Health™ Report Card and 29-point visual check on each appointment
- Annual preventive maintenance and energy savings up to 30%**
H2: Save Money on Heating Costs with Niagara Home Services by Enercare
Although natural gas prices are going up, there are many ways to lower your heating bill with our Expert assistance. To begin, call us at 289-273-2229 for an appointment and we'll see what you can do to save 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.