# Natural Gas in the home

#### Paul D G

##### Screenwriter
I hope I can explain this without sounding like an idiot. I'm paying the bills right now and I finally decided I'd ask some people:

We went on a 10 day vacation last December. We turned off the hot water heater (ie VACATION setting), and we lowered the heat in our house to the recommended 55 degrees (we have a new build home and this was the recommended setting. we recently moved to Illinois from California where we would normally just turn off the heat completely). Normally we keep the house at 68 degrees 24 hours a day (I work nights from home). I expected to see a good dip in the natural gas bill for that month. After all, I figured we were using about 1/4 less gas - no cooking, no water heating, no laundry and 15 degrees lower in the house for 1/3 of the month. However, the bill came out and it was actually higher than the month previous. Granted, December here was colder than November so (i assume) the heat kicked on more frequently, but we weren't cooking nor heating water so at the very least it should have been the same as the month previous if not lower. We apparently used 25.5 more therms in Dec than in Nov.

I'm curious for people's input on that but my real question is this - what's the point of lowering the heat in the house? The way I understand heating to work is that once the temp in the house drops X degrees below the thermostat setting the heat kicks in to bring the house back to that temp. Let's say it's 1 degree outside and the thermostat is going to turn on the heat when the temp drops two degrees below it's setting. Wouldn't the same amount of gas be used whether the thermostat is set to 55 or 68? I mean, either way it has to raise the temp in the house by two degrees so how can going from 53 to 55 use less gas than 66-68?

-paul

#### BrianW

##### Effects Supervisor
Senior HTF Member
Paul, did you pay the same price for NG in December as you did in November, or did the price go up?

#### CRyan

##### Screenwriter
Check the meter when the bill arrives. It takes a little practice to figure out how to read one. The bill should also state whether it was an actual read or an estimate. I have certainly caught when they said it was an actal read when it was not (i.e. the meter was reading less than what the bill stated). No real matter as it will come out in the wash the next time the meter is actually read. Also check how much you were paying per unit.

Also, regarding the second question. It will simply take more energy to keep the temperature in a dwelling at a higher temperature. You actually answered your own question with the second to last sentence in your first paragraph.

#### Scott Merryfield

##### Film Editor
Senior HTF Member
December was pretty cold in the Midwest, especially in relation to a very mild November. Our natural gas bills go from about \$20 per month in the summer to about \$180 - \$230 per month in the cold winter months. The furnace, water heater and clothes dryer are our only gas appliances. Our house is 2,500 sq. ft., not including the basement, which adds another 1,500 sq. ft.

Gas prices went up dramatically this past winter. We installed new windows, which cut our fuel consumption by about 15-20%, yet our gas bills remained constant from the past winter.

#### Al.Anderson

##### Effects Supervisor
Senior HTF Member
Yes, it does take the same amount of energy to raise temperture one degree regardless of what the starting point is.

But you aren't really raising the temperature one degree in both situations. In the one case you're going from 53-55, in the other you're going from 53-68.

Now it's been a while since physics 202, but I think I remember that the rate of heat transfer is dependant on the temperature difference. So in the first case it would take a relatively long while for the house temp to drop to where it needed to be raised again. In the second case the time to drop a degree is much faster, so the heater has to keep cutting in.

#### Lew Crippen

##### Executive Producer
Senior HTF Member
If your home were perfectly insulated (no heat loss) it would not take more energy (or at least not a detectable amount in your bill) to raise the heat from 53 to 55 than from 66 to 68.

But what is missing in your question is the outside temperature. For example, suppose the outside temperature is 55. Your furnace won’t come on at all when the thermostat is set to 54, but it will have to heat your house to 67. And since you don’t have perfect insulation, the temperature inside your home will drop enough to cause the furnace to have to reheat your home.

Now as the outside temperature becomes colder and colder, the more often the furnace will need to come on to raise your home’s inside temperature. The heat loss happens much more quickly when the home is heated to 67, than when the thermostat setting is 54.

This means that the furnace comes on more often with the higher setting, even if it took no more energy to raise the temperature the two degrees.

#### MarkHastings

##### Executive Producer
Senior HTF Member
But there are a TON of variables that come into play.Yes, it's not so much how cold it is outside, as it is how cold it is inside - and how well your home retains the heat.

Example: the past few months, I've had the heat set to 68 degrees. I have 2 zones (one up and one downstairs). The upstairs thermostat, I only need to turn on at night because even though it will be 60 outside, it's 74 degrees inside due to the suns heat (and the fact that it's well insulated). I get direct sunlight in the room where my thermostat is, so the heat doesn't go on during the day in there.

As opposed to the downstairs thermostat that is in almost total darkness, so it tends to keep the heat on longer.

The other thing too is, my upstairs thermostat gets direct sunlight during the winter months because the sun is low enough that it comes in the south facing window (which hits the thermostat).

During the summer, the sun is higher in the sky, so it doesn't come directly in that window.

Again, there are so many varibles at play here.

#### Scott L

##### Cinematographer
Senior HTF Member
dunno about you but we're on some seasonal pay plan with our gas company.

Never heard of it until we moved in February but essentially they spread out the costs semi-evenly over the course of a year. So instead of paying \$340 in January and \$30 in July, you pay something like \$140 for both months.

I actually don't like this plan >:[

#### Andrew Bunk

##### Screenwriter

Where I'm at in the west burbs of Chicago, Nicor only does an actual meter reading every other month. Their "estimated" readings are sometimes much higher than they should be. If this is what happened it should technically even out the next month whenthe actual reading is done.

#### Paul D G

##### Screenwriter
I'm just down the road from Andrew! Taking a closer look - yes, Nicor - the gas company - does indeed estimate every other month. I noticed it once, but taking a closer look over the last six months confirms it.

Ok, so I'll go with the "takes more energy to heat the house to a higher temp no matter what the starting point is" since there must be some science to confirm it otherwise they wouldnt tell us to drop the temp in the house overnight (tho I still think it would use more energy to heat the house back up to daytime temp than it would keeping the temp steady, or at least break even). But I still don't understand how my bill isn't lower for December since I wasn't using as much gas for 1/3 of the month.

November ESTIMATED is 156.7 thems used, [email protected] cost
December ACTUAL 182.16 therms used, [email protected] cost
January ESTIMATED 169.33 therms used, [email protected] cost

I can only think that we used more gas than expected in November and the colder December plus paying for the extra gas made up the difference, but the numbers still seem high since we weren't home for 10 days in December and we use gas for cooking, water, dryer and heat.

-paul

#### Jay H

##### Producer
Senior HTF Member
I have a gas meter that is in my basement, so the PSE&G (my gas company) can't walk around the reading day to read it so the first 4 months I've lived here, I've had to call it in or via their website. Just last month, PSE&G installed what they call is a sender unit on the meter, must be a wireless transmitter and supposedly they simply drive up the street with a van with the receiver in it and can remotely read the meter without them getting out. I noticed on my last bill the therms read listed as "actual" which means it must be effective now and I wont have to call the reading in all the time which is good!

Jay

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