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 in the industry. But because these furnaces depend on natural gas for fuel, their cost efficiency can change as gas prices fluctuate.
According to the Associated Press, winter heating bills are expected to rise as natural gas prices spike. We’ll take a closer look at why heating costs are on the rise, and how you can work 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 multiple factors including:
- Winter temperatures in the U.S. are forecasted to be colder than normal. This is common during La Niña climate patterns, primarily 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 nearly half of U.S. homes depend on 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, since heating and cooling accounts for nearly half your monthly energy costs. Investing in a quality gas furnace goes a long way, but there are other options for increasing your home’s energy efficiency. To keep heating costs down this year, try 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 work more efficiently. With Wi-Fi connectivity, you can adjust the temperature from anywhere in the house. In fact, many smart thermostats can be remotely controlled from your smart phone or tablet! You no longer have to worry about wasted energy if you were unable to adjust the thermostat before leaving for work or vacation.
Smart thermostats record 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 every morning.
To encourage more homeowners to try 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 likely doesn’t have enough 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 conserve more heat.
Another way to improve insulation is by choosing the right window treatments. Small cracks or flaws can cause drafts, but putting up honeycomb shades or plantation shutters can help windows lock heat in.
Keep Up with Routine Furnace Maintenance
Just one annual checkup can help verify your furnace is providing maximum energy efficiency for your home. When completed 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 primary benefit of professional furnace maintenance is the time for an expert technician to catch problems before they get worse. Even minor issues can lower the energy efficiency of your furnace, which can add up over long-term heating costs.
A quality maintenance program from trusted service companies like West Michigan Heating & Air Conditioning Services can help your furnace perform more effectively. In some cases, it can even help equipment stay in working shape for a few years more.
Schedule a Professional Energy Audit
If there are other ways your home could be more energy efficient, a professional energy audit should 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, track down any air leaks and many other useful tasks. They could 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 improve your furnace’s energy efficiency is by replacing it with a new, more efficient model. A simple way to determine your furnace’s energy efficiency is by finding 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 around 15 years or older. Quality maintenance can help extend its life span, but every furnace arrives at a point where replacement is more cost effective than performing repairs.
West Michigan Heating & Air Conditioning Services Works with You to Keep Heating Costs Low
Higher natural gas prices shouldn’t leave you unable to warm your home this winter. West Michigan Heating & Air Conditioning Services and our comfort experts will help you find new opportunities to keep costs down. Not only will this help you last through 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 (616) 319-1436.