Natural gas furnaces are an effective way to provide fast and evenly distributed heat throughout your entire home. If you live in a cold northern climate, it’s one of the most effective heating systems available. But because these furnaces rely on natural gas for fuel, their cost efficiency can change as gas prices fluctuate.
According to the Associated Press, winter heating bills are going to rise as natural gas prices go up. We’ll take a close look at why heating costs are on the rise, and how you can take steps to keep your home’s heating system energy efficient.
Why Have Natural Gas Prices Gone Up?
While heating costs usually go up as the weather cools down, this winter’s energy bills are expected to be higher than usual. This is because of several factors including:
- Winter temperatures in the U.S. are expected to be colder than average. This is common during La Niña weather patterns, largely for the Northeast and Midwest.
- Global inflation rates are going up. As the economy steadily winds back up, congested supply chains are placed under even more strain. This pushes up prices at an increased pace.
Did you know that close to half of U.S. homes use natural gas for their central heating? With so many homeowners facing higher heating bills, an energy-efficient HVAC system is more important than ever.
Maximize Your Home’s Energy Efficiency
Your home’s energy efficiency is largely influenced by your HVAC system, as heating and cooling accounts for about half your monthly energy costs. Investing in a quality gas furnace goes a long way, but there are other options for improving your home’s energy efficiency. To keep heating costs more manageable this year, check out these cost-cutting tips.
1. Invest in a Smart Thermostat
Smart thermostats are a type of programmable thermostat with features designed to help your HVAC system perform more efficiently. With Wi-Fi connectivity, you can alter the temperature from every room in the house. In fact, many smart thermostats can be remotely controlled from your smart phone or tablet! You won’t have to worry about wasted energy if you were unable to adjust the thermostat before leaving for work or vacation.
Smart thermostats track how you use your HVAC system and will apply that information to optimize your preferred day-to-day heating and cooling schedule. For example, if you like a warm bedroom when you wake up, a smart thermostat can automatically turn up the heat in the morning.
To encourage more homeowners to install smart thermostats, many energy companies provide high value rebates to recoup installation costs. Depending on the model you’re interested in, this rebate can cover most or all the costs of installation. And since all smart thermostats are ENERGY STAR® qualified, you know you’re getting your money’s worth in energy efficiency.
2. Ensure Your Home has Adequate Insulation
You may be surprised to learn that your home probably doesn’t have adequate insulation. It’s places like the attic and between the walls where most of your home’s heat loss occurs. When you install more insulation, you’ll hold onto more heat.
Another way to improve insulation is by choosing the right window treatments. Small cracks or flaws can create drafts, but putting up honeycomb shades or plantation shutters can help windows trap heat in.
Don’t Neglect Routine Furnace Maintenance
Just one yearly checkup can help make sure your furnace is providing maximum energy efficiency for your home. When performed by a professional technician, a routine furnace maintenance visit should include:
- A thorough inspection of your furnace’s exterior and internal machinery.
- Deep cleaning of any components that have accumulated dirt or grime.
- Adjustment and relubrication of delicate or moving parts.
- Cleaning or replacement of your furnace’s air filter.
- Checking HVAC accessories like your ductwork and thermostat for signs of trouble.
The main benefit of professional furnace maintenance is the opportunity for an expert technician to uncover problems before they get worse. Even minor issues can reduce the energy efficiency of your furnace, which can add up over long-term heating costs.
A quality maintenance program from trusted service companies like Contra Costa Heating & AC can help your furnace perform more effectively. In certain cases, it can even help equipment stay in working shape for a few years more.
Schedule a Professional Energy Audit
If there are still ways your home could be more energy efficient, a professional energy audit will be able to identify them. Audits are frequently offered through your natural gas company. They’ll dispatch someone to your home to check your insulation, locate any air leaks and many other useful tasks. They may suggest things like resealing your ductwork or installing weather stripping on your windows and doors.
Consider Replacing Your Furnace with a High-Efficiency Model
Sometimes the best way to increase your furnace’s energy efficiency is by replacing it with a new, more efficient model. A quick way to verify your furnace’s energy efficiency is by taking a look at the Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) rating. These ratings measure how effectively a furnace converts its fuel source into useable heat.
A furnace with an AFUE rating of 80% will lose 20% of fuel to heat loss and other inefficiencies. Luckily, you can find high-efficiency models with AFUE ratings as high as 99%! These ENERGY STAR®-rated gas furnaces boast some of the most energy-efficient heating in the industry.
You should start thinking about new furnace installation when the old model is close to 15 years or older. Professional maintenance can help extend its life span, but every furnace arrives at a point where replacement is more cost effective than performing repairs.
Contra Costa Heating & AC Works with You to Keep Heating Costs Low
Rising natural gas prices shouldn’t leave you unable to heat your home this winter. Contra Costa Heating & AC and our comfort experts will help you find new ways to keep costs down. Not only will this help you survive higher fuel costs, but improved energy efficiency will benefit you for the entire life span of your HVAC system.
To schedule an appointment, give us a call today at 510-343-9841.