For many homeowners, their monthly gas bill can be among their highest home-related expenses. This is especially true in climates like Minnesota’s, where winter and summer temperatures can be extreme. However, there are ways of monitoring, adjusting, and reducing those costs.
Many factors affect the size of your gas bill including the size and configuration of your home, the appliances you use and their fuel efficiency, and, of course, the weather. These factors work together to determine your energy usage and bill. Here are some ways to conserve and save on that bill.
The size of your home, of course, is a determining factor in its cooling and heating costs. That’s why heating costs can vary so dramatically. In Minnesota, typical home heating can range from $200 to $400 per month.
Aside from size, it’s also important to consider the number and size of doors and windows in your home. According to Keith Hill, Stay Comfy’s resident HVAC expert, the greatest heat loss in any home is through its doors and windows. To prevent or reduce drafts:
Be sure your doors and windows are fully closed and well sealed.
Avoid opening doors and windows any more than necessary, whether heating or cooling your home.
In winter, keep your drapes and shades open on southern-facing windows to take advantage of the sunlight. At night, close all your shades and drapes to block drafts. Reverse in the summer months.
As Keith points out, “All appliances — not just the furnace — like water heaters, washers and dryers can use a lot of energy, especially with teenagers in the home. Bathing, cooking, cleaning and washing/ drying clothes can add a lot to gas consumption.” Here are some ideas on how to save on energy costs while getting the most out of your appliances.
Your furnace is typically the biggest consumer of gas. And if you have an older, less efficient furnace, that can make a big difference in your gas bill. Check the venting from the furnace to the chimney. If it’s metal, your furnace is older and running at 80% or less efficiency. You might want to consider replacing it with one of the newer units that run at 94%–97% efficiency. The savings will add up quickly.
To optimize the performance of your current system:
Change the filter regularly. It’s a good idea to inspect it every month and change it if it looks dirty. At the very least, change it every three months.
If you don’t already have one, installing a programmable thermostat can help you save. It will let you automatically reduce heating and cooling when you’re away or just don’t need it as much. It can also help you maintain comfortable (but not extreme) temperatures in your home. Try to keep your heat set at 68° or lower and your cooling at 78° or higher for optimum comfort and economy.
A gas water heater is usually the second biggest consumer of gas, often adding up to as much as 15%–25% of your total usage. As with your furnace, it pays to be sure your unit is running efficiently. If your heater is 10 years or older, it’s far less efficient than models available today. An investment in a new one can pay for itself in a fairly short time.
Check your heat setting. Optimally, it should be set at 120° or lower. Anything higher will burn up your gas bill.
Taking a short shower rather than a bath can save 5 to 10 gallons of water and the energy it takes to heat it!
You can create energy savings on laundry day using these tips:
Wash full loads. A single full load takes less energy than several smaller ones.
If you must wash a smaller load, adjust the water level accordingly.
Use cool or cold water whenever feasible.
Dry heavier and lighter loads separately.
Dry multiple loads back-to-back to take advantage of the built-up heat.
Make sure to clean the lint trap after every load.
Lastly, your heating costs will vary year to year based on the weather. Keith advises tracking “degree days” for your area. “Degree days are an indicator of hours that the outside temperature is below 65°F. You can do some simple math with these numbers. If the degree days this year are 16% more than last year (make sure you are comparing the same time frame), then you should expect that your heat bill will be 16% greater this year during that time frame,” Keith says.
So, the next time you receive your gas bill, take a closer look at your appliances, doors, windows, and recent weather. These could all indicate a spike in your gas bill. Then, use some of our tips to help reduce your bill.