Utility Price Increases – Not the Main Culprit
Every year our local utilities take price increases on gas and electric service. While this can have an impact, it is unlikely that the annual increase in cost from the utility is greater than the increase in efficiency from a newly replaced, energy efficient furnace, heat pump or gas fireplace. For example, the published rate increases for PSE that go into effect January 1, 2018, are expected to increase bills “an average of 1 cent per month for natural gas and 24 cents per month for residential electricity”, (PSE).
Heating Early and Often
It really comes down to how cold it is outside. In our industry, we measure the amount of time one needs to heat a home in a unit of measure called heating degree days (HDD). This is defined as the number of degrees that a day’s average temperature is below 65 degrees. So if the average temperature in a day is 55 degrees then that day would account for 10 degree days.
Looking at the last four years over the time period from Sept 1 through November 22nd, we added up all of those degrees below 65. Please see the graph at Weatherunderground.
2017 had a higher number of degree days, meaning that this fall was colder. In fact, 2017 was 14% below the four year average. Seattle homeowners were more likely to have the heat on earlier and more often this fall, and that led to generally higher utility bills. It might seem surprising that we can experience record warm summers and a below average cold fall, but that is the case. Our local temperatures have been seesawing more over the last few years.
Countering Cold Weather Impact on Heating Bills
Keep heating cost increases in check with these three easy steps:
✓ Utilize the smart features of your thermostat. Today’s smart thermostats are easier and less intimidating to program. EnergyStar® estimates a savings of up to 10% of heating costs if heat is lowered 7-10 degrees for 8 hours per day. Remotes for ductless heat pumps also have a variety of smart options.
✓ Set the energy efficient gas fireplace remote to the same constant temperature as the furnace. This allows the gas insert to work in tandem with the furnace, calling for heat when the room dips below the set point. The fireplace will provide amazing comfort to the rooms you are using, and reduce overall energy use of the home.
✓ While you can increase radiant heat from a gas fireplace by 30% by removing the glass barrier screen, we caution against doing this as the barrier screen is there to protect people and pets. If you do decide to do this, remove the screen when the gas fireplace has been cold for at least 4 hours.
✓ Consider a home energy audit to pinpoint and measure the heat lost from leaks and poor insulation. These often unseen issues drain warmth from your home, and more heat is used to compensate. A comprehensive audit is simply the best way to design a long term improvement game plan to lower heating costs.
Washington Energy Services installs top quality energy efficient products, including gas furnaces, fireplaces, smart thermostats and more. Are you ready to create a more energy efficient home? Contact us today.