When winter kicks in, it’s time to once again start heating homes throughout the country. For many homeowners, this means increasing gas consumption and the highest gas bills of the year. If you’re looking for ways to save on your gas bill, a great option is to electrify your home heating systems. Pairing electric heating systems with a solar photovoltaic (PV) system will help to insulate yourself from rising future costs of both gas and electricity.
Causes of high gas bills
There are several factors that could contribute to an expensive gas bill:
Across the country, houses are heated with natural gas, oil, propane, and electricity. In many parts of the country, natural gas is the most common fuel used to run furnaces in homes. Although the US is in the midst of a natural gas boom with relatively inexpensive gas coming from the Mid-Atlantic, the price of natural gas and your respective gas bills seems to keep increasing every winter.
In places like the Northeast, a large contributor to this trend is the electric sector shifting away from coal and towards more natural gas. Due to this cheap supply of natural gas throughout the year, natural gas recently overtook coal as the largest source of electricity generation nationwide, according to the Energy Information Administration. New England, in particular, is run largely on natural gas because every coal unit in the region has either already retired or announced a date in the near future by when they will shutter operations.
This means that in the winter when you need natural gas to heat your home, you might be competing for that natural gas against the electric power plants that also need the natural gas to run. As a result, your gas bill is so high due to the simplest economic principle: supply and demand.
Some regions are calling for an increased natural gas pipeline capacity to keep up with the rising demand. However, building a pipeline costs a significant amount of money, which eventually gets passed on to you as a homeowner through gas or electricity bills. Even though supply would increase, your baseline cost for gas may also increase throughout the rest of the year to pay for any additional pipeline capacity. (This is to say nothing of the local and global environmental impact of building new pipelines, which has been covered to great length elsewhere.)
Changes in the weather
The colder it is outside, the harder your heating system has to work to keep your home at a comfortable temperature, which means consuming more gas and spending more money to keep your home heated. Additionally, if you heat your home water supply using gas, colder outside temperatures may result in more warm water being used, thus increasing your gas usage even further.
Outdated or inefficient heating technology
All technology degrades over time, including home heating systems. As time goes on, these technologies become less efficient and require more energy to produce the same amount of heat than they would have earlier in their life. If you’re using an old gas-powered boiler or furnace to heat your home, the lower efficiencies will mean utilizing more gas, even if you’re keeping your thermostat at the same temperature as you have in the past.
How to save on your gas bill
You shouldn’t just settle for paying high gas bills; here are a few of the many ways you can save on gas costs:
Electrify your appliances
The best option for saving on your gas bill is to reduce your gas usage as much as possible by electrifying your home heating appliances. By switching from relying on natural gas to power your furnace or boiler to using electricity for your home heating needs, you now reduce your gas bill to zero. The most common option to electrify your heating needs are air source heat pumps, which are much more efficient than oil furnaces or electric resistance heaters at converting energy into heat. As a bonus, electric heating systems can be powered with solar energy should you decide to install a solar system on your property.
Upgrade your insulation
The less heat you need for your home, the less gas you’ll use. Therefore, a common way to save money on your gas bill is to invest in better home insulation. If you live in an old home your insulation may be outdated or have leaks; having a professional conduct a home energy audit to identify areas susceptible to heat leakage will help save you money on your gas bill. Properly insulated windows, attics, and ducts will help trap heat in your home for longer amounts of time and save you money.
Adjust your daily habits
You can save money on your gas bill without spending anything out of pocket by simply adjusting your habits around the house. Here are a few examples of actions you can take:
- Take advantage of natural heat from the sun by opening up window shades when the sun is shining on certain sides of your home.
- During colder months, consider wearing extra layers of clothes and keeping the temperature set lower than normal.
- To help facilitate better circulation of heat in your home, keep the vents and radiators throughout your home clear from obstructions.
- Shutting doors to unused rooms and closing the vents in those rooms ensures that you don’t heat spaces that you don’t spend time in, and instead the heat that would have been wasted can be redistributed to the main living spaces in your home.
Install a smart thermostat
One great way to use technology to lower your gas bill is to install a smart thermostat to keep your home at a comfortable, energy-saving temperature. Smart thermostats allow you intelligently adjust temperatures around your home throughout the day and night. For example, you can set your thermostat to automatically lower the heat during work hours so you don’t waste gas while you’re out of the home for the day. You can also set schedules so your home heats up in the morning right as you’re waking up.
Different smart thermostats have a variety of features – check out our review of the best smart thermostats to learn more about your options.
Options for home heating with solar
There are a number of options for heating your home using solar power. For new construction or retrofitting your existing home, a great option is passive solar heating. This method of harnessing the energy of the sun does not rely upon solar panels but rather gathers the heat of solar irradiation through a unique solar-friendly design of the house. All that’s really required at the simplest level is exposing a living area to sunlight to allow the sun to passively warm it throughout the day.
However, you can also heat your home with solar panels. Once you electrify your home heating, you can begin to reduce your overall heating bill by going solar. Now, instead of drawing from either natural gas or the electric grid to power your furnace or air source heat pump, you can use the power of the sun to heat your home throughout the winter, insulating yourself from rising future natural gas and electricity prices. As a bonus, a PV system will also help reduce or eliminate your other electricity costs, helping bring your energy bills as close to zero as possible.
Go solar to save on your gas bill
Saving on your gas bill can be as simple as reducing your demand for gas. However, you can also save on your gas bill and keep your home comfortable by electrifying your heating system and investing in solar panels to power your home. But solar helps you save on more than just your gas bill. Check out our solar calculator to see ballpark numbers on how much you could be saving on your utility bills from solar. Ready to take the next step? Register for the EnergySage Marketplace to receive free solar quotes from up to seven local, pre-screened installers today.