Getting the Most From Natural Gas in Your Home

Everyone wants to save money. If you heat your home with natural gas, then you’re already ahead in the savings game! According to the Canadian Gas Association, the yearly average cost of heating your home with natural gas is anywhere from 1600 to 3000 dollars cheaper than heating with other energy sources, such as electricity or oil.

In fact, natural gas is so affordable that it makes up only 1% of the average home’s expenses. Still, there are easy ways to stretch those savings even further, both to keep more money in your pocket and to waste less energy in your home.

Get the most from your water heater.
Powering your water heater with natural gas will already save you about 350 dollars per year when compared with using oil. You can ratchet up those savings even more by making sure that you schedule regular maintenance appointments for your water heater. Deal with any leaks immediately so that you aren’t wasting hot water. Consider turning the temperature on your water heater down to 130 degrees, which will use less energy while still providing more than enough hot water for the average family’s needs. When you go out of town, turn your heater down or off – there’s no need for hot water that you aren’t going to be using. Other ways to improve your water heater’s efficiency include wrapping it in a blanket or an insulation jacket, installing low-flow fixtures, and turning off the taps when you aren’t using the water – for instance, while shampooing your hair.

Increase the efficiency of your appliances.
Appliances that can be powered by natural gas include stoves and clothes dryers. When it’s time to replace one of those appliances, look for the most energy-efficient model that you can afford. While it might be more expensive at first, the long-term savings will often make up for the initial difference in cost. While appliances like dishwashers and washing machines usually run on electricity, you can conserve natural gas indirectly by using them more efficiently and therefore using less hot water. Only run them when you have a full load, and consider washing your clothes in cold water rather than in hot water.

Turn the heat down a few degrees in the winter.
Keeping your home a few degrees cooler in the winter is one of the easiest and most effective ways to decrease your use of natural gas. Turn the heat down gradually, half a degree at a time, to give yourself time to acclimatize. A warm sweater, an extra blanket or a pair of wool socks can keep you toasty warm, even if your house is a bit cooler than you’re accustomed to.
Turn the air conditioner down a few degrees in the summer.

Why keep your house cool enough in the summer that you need a light sweater when indoors? Like turning down the heat in the winter, turning down the air conditioning in the summer is an easy way to save energy – and money on your monthly gas bill. Change the setting gradually to give yourself time to acclimatize. Simple ways to keep your house cooler in the summer include using ceiling fans, closing the blinds during the day, and keeping a good supply of ice cold drinks handy!

Consider scheduling a home energy audit.
During a home energy audit, a trained professional will conduct an assessment of your home’s energy efficiency. It will generally include a visual inspection, an interview and a technology-aided inspection with the help of blower doors and infrared cameras. The home energy auditor will look for places where hot or cool air is escaping. He or she will also provide you with a variety of suggestions for improving your home’s energy efficiency, ranging from simple changes like adding insulation to problem areas, to bigger commitments like changing windows or a furnace, to less conventional solutions like planting trees for shade. A more energy-efficient home will lead to a reduction in natural gas usage.

Keep up with the maintenance of your heating and cooling systems.
Schedule regular maintenance appointments for your furnace and air conditioner. Not only will this keep them running more efficiently – thereby lowering your gas consumption – it will also keep you and your family safer. Make sure that you change filters according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. You might also want to consider having your ducts professionally cleaned once every three to five years. Make sure that your vents are not being blocked by furniture, rugs or curtains, so that heat and cool air can circulate more efficiently.
Properly insulate your home.

Make sure that your home is well-insulated. Common places where hot or cool air escapes are around baseboards, doors, windows and fireplaces. A drafty home wastes natural gas – and your money. You can feel for drafts yourself, or else you can schedule a home energy audit with a trained professional. With the products currently available on the market, adding insulation is much less complicated than it used to be. Ask at your local hardware or home improvement store for suggestions and advice.

Install a programmable thermostat – or learn to use the one you already have.
A programmable thermostat is one of the easiest ways to control your use of natural gas. Set your thermostat based on your family’s schedule, so that the house is automatically being heated or cooled only when there are people at home. On an extra-cold – or unusually warm – day, you can use the manual override to change the temperature temporarily. A programmable thermostat can also help you take advantage of a time-of-use plan, by turning itself up during cheaper hours and turning itself down during peak hours. When you go on holiday, don’t forget to either change your program or to use a special holiday mode – there’s no point in wasting gas when there’s no one in the house to enjoy it!

Shop around for the best rates.
In many parts of the country, you already have the best rate – because there’s only one available supplier. In major urban centres, however, you may have a choice between more than one supplier. Natural gas prices are not regulated, which means that each company can set its own rates. Find out which one can offer you the best deal.

Natural gas is already, by far, the most economical energy source in Canada. By incorporating a few simple tips and hints, you can use even less energy – and save some more money!

Sam Jones the author is often asked how to find the cheapest gas supplier. He recommends uSwitch.com, gas and electric comparison site where all of the energy suppliers can be compared with a user-friendly price comparison facility

 

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