Using Natural Gas In Your Home Efficiently
Whether you live in a home or apartment, chances are you use natural gas to warm up or keep cool as the weather dictates. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), the majority of American households use natural gas for heat. This is no surprise, as natural gas is both a versatile and clean burning fuel and is the best value for consumers because it costs less than other energy options such as electricity, propane and heating oil.
Household Heating Systems: Although several different types of fuels are available to heat our homes, nearly half of us use natural gas. | Source: Buildings Energy Data Book 2011, 2.1.1 Residential Primary Energy Consumption, by Year and Fuel Type (Quadrillion Btu and Percent of Total). (http://energy.gov/energysaver/tips-heating-and-cooling)
Here are some easy and affordable changes that can help reduce your energy use, avoid waste and save you money.
Change your Air Filter Regularly
Replace or clean your furnace and A/C unit filters monthly, especially during the winter and summer months (typically the heavy usage months). Check your filter every month, especially during heavy use months (winter and summer). If the filter looks dirty after a month, change it. At a minimum, you should change the filter every 3 months to ensure maximum air flow and cooling efficiency. If your filter is dirty it will make your system work harder to heat up or cool your home, in turn wasting energy and costing you money. Alternatively, a clean filter will prevent costly maintenance fees and early system failure.
Furnace / Natural Gas Appliance Maintenance
Have your heating and cooling systems inspected and maintained regularly so that they are running at peak performance and efficiently. Keep the units free of dust, rust or any signs of corrosion. Trim brush from around outdoor units, and move furniture and rugs off of floor vents.
It is also important to have your gas appliances (gas range, washer, dryer etc.) maintained regularly to make sure they run efficiently and safely. Consider replacing older appliances (non-energy efficient) with newer high energy-efficiency rated ones. Most importantly use the appliances in compliance with the manufacturer’s instructions to prevent fires and other hazards. Do not heat your home with your gas range or oven, this can lead to fires or a buildup of carbon-monoxide poisoning. Keep areas around your gas appliances clean and unblocked. If you have a gas dryer, clean out any lint build ups regularly, as this can also cause fires.
Lowering the Thermostat
Consider lowering the thermostat to conserve energy and save on your heating gas bills. According to the DOE you can save 5% to 15% a year on your heating bill by turning your thermostat back 10 to 15 degrees for 8 hours. Lower your thermostat when you are sleeping or when no one is home for four hours or longer. It is easy to set and adjust the times you turn on the heating according to a pre-set schedule with a programmable thermostat. Proper use of the pre-programmed settings of a programmable thermostat can save you about $180 every year in energy costs according to the DOE.
Reducing Air Leaks
An easy and inexpensive way to conserve energy and save money is to reduce air leaks. This can save you as much as 10% of the average household’s monthly energy bill. Seal cracks and leaks around doors, windows and other openings such as pipes or ducts. Caulk and weather strip around areas where you have any air leaks to reduce air flow and energy loss. Some of the most common areas where air escapes in a home are:
- floors, walls, ceilings
- plumbing penetrations
As consumers, we tend to use natural gas the most during the winter months to heat our homes and this can dramatically affect energy bills. Using natural gas efficiently will conserve energy, help keep you safe and also save you money.