A natural gas furnace is the most cost-effective way to heat your home, especially if you live in a cool climate. However, Reuters says the cost of natural gas is expected to rise significantly during the winter heating season. Learn why the price of natural gas is going up and how to save on gas heating bills this year.
Why Is Natural Gas Getting More Expensive?
Every year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) produces a winter fuel outlook. Energy costs have previously gotten more expensive around the world, according to Reuters. This is due to the fact the demand for energy is now greater than the available supply.
How More Expensive Natural Gas Prices Will Affect You
Higher natural gas prices will affect you as you switch on your heating system and get utility bills. Here's about how much it will affect the average household during the six-month winter heating season, as compared to 2020.
- 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 Tips for Saving on Heating Costs
In comparison to other fuel sources, a natural gas heating system is still the most affordable and most efficient way to heat your home. And there are several things you can do to keep your heating costs affordable this winter. Here's how you can save on your gas heating bill.
1. Schedule a Furnace Tune-Up
Request furnace maintenance from an HVAC professional before the heating season begins. You'll get greater efficiency and it's less expensive than fixing your heating system later on in the year.
This service includes:
- Testing and cleaning gas burners for proper operation.
- Examining the heat exchanger for cracks to prevent deadly carbon monoxide leaks.
- Tracking warm air flow and blower operation to guarantee peak performance.
- Inspecting the gas valve to make sure fuel supply pressure is correct.
- Checking electrical parts for damage.
- Checking your thermostat to ensure it’s working right.
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, many manufacturers require it to keep your valuable warranty applicable. This warranty shields you if a major part, 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 forget about scheduling your furnace tune-ups. That's why we provide membership programs created to make your life better while helping you save money.
With our best-value Maintenance+™, you'll enjoy regular preventive maintenance plus:
- Energy savings up to 30%**
- Guaranteed 24/7/365 priority service
- No trip or overtime charges—ever
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- 100% guarantee on repairs for one year*
- Lifetime thermostat warranty
- Home Health Report Card and 29-point visual check on every visit
2. Install a Smart Thermostat
HVAC professionals advise 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 receive real-time updates on how much energy you're consuming.
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 instantly set the thermostat to save you more money.
- Smart programming that makes an energy-efficient heating routine 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 part or even the full cost of the thermostat, so contact your natural gas supplier before you buy one.
3. Choose Energy-Efficient Thermostat Settings
Your smart thermostat will handle creating an efficient schedule that likely reduces your heating bill, but you'll need to program it for a few days so it can pick up on your temperature preferences. We recommend 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:
- Choose 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 prevent air leaks. Consider getting energy-saving windows in the future, like 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 putting 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 great at blocking 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 affect air balance and make your furnace work harder. Also, try not to block vents as this affects how heating systems distribute warm air.
- Consider installing additional ceiling insulation, since your home leaks a lot of hot air through the attic.
- Schedule an energy audit through your natural gas company. This service is often free and provides 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 Asleep
The National Sleep Foundation says most people do best in a cool room. During the winter, that can vary from 60-67 degrees, depending on your personal preferences.
Try testing 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 each evening. You might feel chilly initially, but you'll likely be surprised how comfy you can be at a lower 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 cool as 50 degrees. This keeps your heating system operating and your pipes from icing. But don't be tempted to crank up your furnace when you return, instead of switching it back to 68. This won't heat your home up quicker. It'll just drive up your heating bill and cause wear and tear on your furnace.
If you have pets, you can follow the Department of Energy’s suggestion to set 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. Upgrade Your 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.
Modern furnaces have an average AFUE of 95%, while old models only attain around 80%. Buying a new furnace that's 15% more efficient can lead to major savings on your heating bills over your furnace's life. While your precise utility bill savings will vary based on area weather and your temperature preferences, these savings could help your primary heating source pay for itself in time through a lower natural gas bill.
When to Begin Considering Furnace Installation
Here are a few other signs that it's time to start 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 avoid being without heat when your furnace breaks down for good.
- Repair frequency and cost. If your furnace repair bills are greater than half the cost of a new system, we suggest buying a new one. This also applies if repairs are becoming more consistent.
- Reduced comfort and pricey heating bills. As your furnace gets older, it consumes more energy. You'll see this through your home being less comfortable and your heating bill being more expensive.
- Weird noises. It's normal for your furnace to make some noise as it turns on and off. But some noises, especially 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 suggest your furnace is using more fuel and may even be making carbon monoxide, which can be deadly in big doses. Furnaces seeping this dangerous gas should be taken out immediately.
We realize that furnace replacement is a big investment. It can also be a surprise that you're not fully ready for. That's why we offer the Service Experts Advantage Program™. This hassle-free subscription program is transforming home comfort by covering everything, with no large up-front cost or down payment needed.
For just one reasonable monthly fee, you'll get:
- A new, high-efficiency furnace, as well as valuable manufacturer's rebates
- Expert installation at no extra charge
- 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 every appointment
- Regular preventive maintenance and energy savings up to 30%**
Save Money on Heating Costs with Neal Harris Service Experts
Although natural gas prices are going up, there are lots of ways to lower your heating bill with our Expert assistance. To get started, contact us at 816-787-0500 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.