Are you bracing for the cold? If your home is like most homes, it’s heated by natural gas. And the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts that winter natural gas bills will be up 30% from last winter. But you don’t need to let your heating bill skyrocket to stay warm.
Yes, many heating factors are out of your control. The price of natural gas fluctuates with the market as well as production, transmission, and distribution conditions. However, you can do a lot on your own to cut down on your utility bill.
So here are some ways you can start saving money on your natural gas bill today:
Shop For the Best Gas Price
Check your most recent gas bills to get a feel for how much you are paying on average. You can probably find detailed usage reports online by logging into your gas company’s website.
Then if you live in a deregulated gas state (Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Rhode Island), you can shop around for the best rate through their customer choice program.
Try to lock in a rate. Gas prices fluctuate, so if you can lock in a low one, your utility bill will stay the same even if prices go up.
Audit your Energy Use
Conducting a home energy audit will help you locate leaks where hot air is leaving your house and cold air is coming in. Culprit areas include windows, doors, outlets, and plumbing areas.
Sometimes you can apply a spray foam to insulate exposed areas on your own. Other times you’ll need to hire a professional contractor.
Replace Old Windows
Old porous windows are like a leaky bucket. They allow heat to escape, which makes heating your home require that much more energy. In fact, 25-30% of heat loss and heat gain is due to inefficient windows.
If you have old, drafty windows, cover them with a clear plastic film or replace them with more efficient low-emissivity glass.
Check Gas Equipment
Check your boilers, furnaces, and water heaters to see if they are running efficiently. They may need an upgrade.
For example, a water heater that’s not insulated will drain your gas. They need to be properly insulated with a water heater blanket and regularly maintained.
Seal Air Ducts
Leaky air ducts are another cause for heat loss in your home. You can seal them with mastic sealant or metal tape. Don’t use duct tape as it won’t last long.
Hire a professional to cover any areas you can’t easily reach.
Install an Attic Tent
Attic tents insulate your attic from the rest of the house. This effectively shrinks the size of your home, making it less costly to heat. The larger the house, the more energy it takes to keep it warm.
Invest in a Smart Thermostat
A smart thermostat can automate your home temperature. It adjusts the heat according to settings you dial in.
For example, you can set it to keep your house at 68° during the day, 65° at night, and 60° when you’re not home. Over time, this can save you a lot of money because it eliminates the chance that you forget to turn the heat down and keeps your house at optimal temperatures.
Just don’t ever turn the heat completely off while you’re gone. Otherwise, you risk the water in your pipes freezing and causing the pipes to burst as a result. And such damage can be very expensive to repair.
Get a Humidifier
Dry regions tend to feel colder because there is no moisture in the air. You can get a humidifier for as low as $50 to help make it feel warmer. That way, you don’t need to keep your heat as high.
The same goes for when you dress warmly. It’s easy to put on a sweater, wrap yourself in a blanket, or wear an extra pair of socks to keep the heat lower.
Don’t freeze yourself, of course. But do what you can to offset the need for putting the heat on full blast.
Close Windows and Doors
This one may seem like a no-brainer. But keeping all the openings in your house shut as much as possible is crucial. Each time you open a door or window you let the warm air out and let cold air in. No wonder, your parents always yelled “shut the door!”
Adjust the Blinds
Keep the blinds open during the day and closed in the evening. That way, you let the sunlight warm your home when it’s shining and you help insulate the heat when it’s not. It’s a small move, but it can make an impact.
Keep the Fireplace for Looks Only
Traditional fireplaces that burn wood are highly inefficient at heating your home. Not only do they not distribute the heat throughout the house very well but they let a lot of heat escape through the chimney. So use them sparingly or replace them with an artificial gas-powered fireplace.
Buy a Space Heater
Use a space heater to heat only one room. That way, you don’t have to worry about heating the whole house and you can still stay warm. Space heaters are especially useful if you have central heating, where it may be difficult for the heat to reach each part of the house.
Do Laundry Better
Wash your laundry on a cold cycle instead of a warm or hot one. That way, your washing machine doesn’t require any heat and you lower your energy bill.
You can also hang dry your clothes to save on using the dryer. You can get a collapsible drying rack for around $10 to do this. Air-drying will also help your clothes last longer, so you don’t have to replace them as frequently.
As you can see, there are lots of ways you can cut down on your heating bill. But don’t worry about implementing all of them at once.
The key is to start with two or three cost-saving strategies and make them a habit. Then move on to the next. Over time, you’ll see significant improvements in how much utility money you can save.