Home Heating Tips: Save on Gas This Winter

by HomeDecorBeauty

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Get ready – winter is coming, and so are those big gas bills to heat your home. According to the latest data in the Consumer Price Index for August 2022, the cost of natural piped gas is on the rise – up 3.5% from the previous month and a drastic 33% up from 12 months earlier.

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All of this means that heating bills for the winter of 2022-2023 could rise by a large percentage this season—in fact, analysts at the New York Times project 20% more. They also noted that natural gas is the most common way Americans heat their homes and the utility’s supply has been hampered by the ongoing war in Ukraine. The country’s invasion by Russia has depleted global reserves, driving up prices for heating fuel, just as the conflict has done for gasoline costs this year.

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The newspaper spoke with Mark Wolfe, executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, who claimed natural gas prices are rising even more than current inflation rates. Adding to the problem is the fact that two government programs that assisted families with large utility bills during the pandemic — the Home Energy Assistance Program and the American Rescue Plan — have been depleted this year unless Congress chooses to step in.

However, there are things you can do to help lower the cost of your heating bill this winter, said Anthony Carrino, Trane Residential partner and a 25-year expert in the world of construction and home design. Speaking with GOBankingRates, Carrino says there are a few ways to maintain your HVAC system that will help it run more efficiently and lower the heating bill in the process.

1. Regular maintenance (and timing)

First, he advises, maintenance is key. And this should be done on an annual basis. “Think of it like going to the doctor for regular checkups rather than waiting for the time when you need to have heart surgery, and not finding out until after you’ve had a heart attack,” Carrino illustrated.

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And timing is key, he added. “The middle of summer is the worst time to have air conditioning and the middle of winter is the worst time to have heating. So I always look at the shoulder seasons, which now means autumn, as the time to look at your heating system.”

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This not only ensures that your system works properly and efficiently (which ultimately saves on your gas bill), avoids back-order issues if you need replacement parts, as well as avoids having to pay emergency services and up to four times the standard service fee. “Doing maintenance and also replacing things when HVAC technologies are not in the highest demand will save your pocket,” Carrino said.

2. Replace HVAC filters as needed

A simple thing you can do yourself at home is to change your HVAC filters. “I’ve been listening to this tip for ten years and will never stop,” Carrino emphasized. “It’s something you can do yourself and takes a maximum of five minutes. […] The idea is that the more you replace that filter, the more efficiently your system works. If you have a clogged filter, your system works two to four times as hard to draw the same amount of air through the same filter to condition it for your home.”

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Carrino shared that the best way to do this is by pulling out the existing filter to see the size you need for a replacement. You can typically find them in front of a return air vent opposite the register (the actual mechanism that pushes the hot or cold air into a room). Carrino advised that it’s best to replace the filter every 30-45 days if you live in a home with smokers, pets, asthmatics or anyone with severe allergies; if you don’t have any of those conditions in the house, once a season is fine.

3. Install Smart Thermostat

It has also been recommended to keep heating bills down with the help of a smart thermostat. If you don’t already have one, it’s relatively easy to install (or affordable to do with a technician) and can save you some money. “Given how pervasive they are in the industry now, there’s no reason you shouldn’t use one of them,” Carrino pointed out.

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Many smart thermostats work from an app, so you can change settings on your phone when you’re on the go, which is definitely great for setting a daily schedule. “If you know you’re out of the house from, say, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., there’s no reason to keep your heat or air conditioning at that super comfortable level,” Carrino advised. “Even a few degree change in the thermostat setting for a few hours is going to be reflected in your energy bill, so I highly recommend this option.”

4. Consider alternative heating system options

If you really want to save big on your heating bill, Carrino suggested replacing your entire HVAC system with something more modern, called a dual-fuel unit, a technology developed by Trane. It works similar to a hybrid car concept where you get the benefits of both an electric, air-conditioned heat pump and a gas furnace.

“Electric heat pumps work very efficiently as long as your outdoor temperature is 40 degrees or higher. Once you get below the 40 degree mark, it starts to become more expensive to run the electric heat because the system has to work harder to get the air temperature where you want it,” Carrino noted, adding, “The dual fuel system is able to utilize the electrical part of the heat pump and produce heat for your home at a very efficient rate and then, as it drops into the colder temperatures as we get into later November into February, it will actually start using gas. It is therefore a system that is smart enough to know which fuel is the most economical to use at a given time.”

While the cost would be more of an upfront investment to install a new system, it could be worth it in the long run and could be part of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act rebates that reward homeowners for making energy-efficient changes to their homes . The guidelines for the program are still being developed, but Carrino thinks there’s a good chance dual-fuel systems are part of it, given their high energy efficiency rating.

In addition to getting a new HVAC system, scheduling regular maintenance, changing filters, and upgrading to a smart thermostat are good practices to start now before winter hits and as the devastating ongoing conflicts in Europe approach trickle down to the house.

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“As long as fuel supplies remain limited and we have to fight to open up reserve energy stores that we have here, prices will probably remain on the higher side,” Carrino surmises, adding of his expert tips, “These are nominal dollars to pay to find out about a problem before it’s a catastrophe and it will help you keep the HVAC system running super efficiently.”

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