Interior

Solved! Why Is My Gas Bill So High?

Learn what could be causing higher than expected gas bills and, more importantly, what you can do to help get the costs under control.
A residential gas meter outside of a home for reading how much to charge on a gas bill.

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Q: My gas bill seems out of control lately. I don’t remember paying this much in previous years, and I’m wondering if the added costs are a sign of a problem or just the new reality. Why is my gas bill so high? Could you please help me understand what is causing it?

A: According to the Energy Information Administration, over half of all homes in the United States rely on natural gas to heat their home. And, while the average cost of gas was just under $700 per year in 2020, the cost has been trending up, with households spending an average of $964 in 2022. That works out to about $80 per month. So, you’re certainly not alone in asking, “Why is my gas bill so high?” In the next few sections, we’ll explore some of the potential causes for a high gas bill and share some changes you can make to lower your bill.

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Aging systems can lead to higher gas bills.

A modern furnace and gas water heater set up in the utility room of a residential home to help lower gas bills.
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Max Veggeberg, CEO of Tetra, a heating and cooling company, explains that “an aging boiler, furnace, or water heater that can no longer keep up with the comfort demands of the home” is one of the most common causes for a high gas bill. Heating systems lose efficiency as they age, meaning an old furnace will need to work harder (and use more natural gas) to maintain the desired temperature than was necessary even a few years earlier. The same can be true for an outdated natural gas water heater. “Upgrading this may be an investment, but homeowners can see savings (and greater comfort in their homes) almost immediately,” Veggeberg tells Bob Vila.

If you’re going to purchase a new furnace, water heater, or other appliances, look for ones with an Energy Star seal that will offer greater efficiency and a lower gas cost per month. Another option is to consult with your HVAC company about the prospect of converting to an electric furnace.

Solution: Upgrade to a new furnace and/or water heater.

RELATED: 7 Ways to Get Help from Federal, State, and Local Government for Improved Energy Efficiency

Inadequate insulation can cause a furnace to work harder than necessary.

Man on ladder installs insulation in wall fram.
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If your home doesn’t have enough insulation, then warm air can escape during the winter, making your furnace work harder to achieve your desired temperature. The increased runtime will require more fuel, leaving you with a higher natural gas bill. This problem can also lead to higher electric bills, so it is something just about everyone will want to address to decrease their utility costs.

“Most homeowners feel drafty windows and think they are the biggest cause of high energy bills or an uncomfortable home, but it’s more often low insulation levels. Windows only account for an average of 15 percent of a home’s surface area. Fixing insulation is also typically a much lower investment than fixing windows,” Veggeberg explains.

Solution: Hire a professional to perform a home energy audit to identify leaks or gaps in your insulation, and follow their recommendations to better insulate your home.

Higher natural gas rates can lead to higher bills.

Often, an increase in gas bill payment amounts boils down to the cost of natural gas. Unfortunately, natural gas prices can fluctuate and have been trending upwards for several reasons, including increased demand, international turmoil, weather disruptions, and more. If you signed up for a variable-rate plan with your fuel provider, then you’re going to be feeling the effects of all these occurrences.

Solution: Turn your thermostat down a few degrees, use alternative heating sources (such as a fireplace), or look for a long-term fixed-rate plan to eliminate surprise increases.

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Spikes in usage will be reflected in higher monthly bills.

A residential gas meter outside of a home covered in snow during winter when gas bills might spike because of usage.
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If you have a gas furnace, seeing a gas bill increase during the cold, winter months is normal and generally not cause to rush to read your meter and ensure it isn’t malfunctioning. In this case, it’s also normal for your natural gas usage to decrease substantially during the spring and summer months when your gas furnace isn’t needed. Still, it can be a bit of a shock when you open a bill after your furnace kicked on during the first cold snap of the season.

Solution: While you cannot change the fact that you need heat during the winter, you can try to use less natural gas by setting your thermostat a few degrees lower than you typically do.

Neglecting basic furnace maintenance tasks can lead to poor efficiency and increased gas consumption.

Even if your furnace and other natural gas appliances don’t need to be replaced, improper maintenance may be contributing to the natural gas price increase you’re seeing.

Veggeberg explains, “Changing an air filter or wiping down dust and debris from your unit can improve your system efficiency by as much as 20 percent.”

Keep your gas dryer vent clean to help it operate more efficiently, and aim to replace your furnace filters regularly (every 2 months for fiberglass filters or every 6 months for pleated filters). It is also advisable to contact an HVAC company to perform a yearly tune-up for your system before the weather gets cold.

Solution: Keep up with regular system maintenance to ensure your appliances are operating efficiently.

Setting your thermostat too high can lead to more expensive bills.

A person turning up the home thermostat to 74 degrees which can spike gas bills during cold times of year.
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If you’re searching for how to lower your gas bill, consider lowering your thermostat. The higher you have your thermostat set, the harder your furnace is going to have to work to heat the home and maintain the set temperature. Every time the furnace kicks on, it is consuming more gas, which could be why you’re seeing such high bills. According to the New Hampshire Department of Energy, lowering your thermostat by just one degree can save up to 3 percent on your heating costs.

Solution: Keep your home a few degrees cooler than you typically do.

An outdated thermostat could be increasing usage rates.

The thermostat itself may even be to blame for higher than usual gas bills. If you have an older thermostat that isn’t functioning properly, it may be signaling for your furnace to turn on and off when it doesn’t need to. This can waste natural gas and lead to higher bills.

If you have an old thermostat, consider purchasing a smart thermostat to replace it. Not only will a new model be more accurate, but smart thermostats can help you save additional money. You can program them to lower the temperature in the home when you’re away at work and then to automatically heat it back up shortly before you return. You can even make adjustments to the schedules or the temperature inside the home from anywhere using a smartphone.

Solution: Upgrade to a new smart thermostat.

A gas leak could lead to higher bills.

A plumber checking for gas leaks inside an old home during renovation.
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If you have an unusually high gas bill, then it is also possible that you’re dealing with a gas leak. Gas leaks are uncommon, but not impossible. Knowing what a gas leak smells like can help cue you into a problem. If you smell something resembling rotten eggs, it can indicate that there is a gas leak. If you ever notice such a smell—or hear a hissing-like sound near any of your appliances that use natural gas—don’t stop to investigate. Evacuate all people and animals from the house and call 911. They will locate your gas shut-off valve and determine whether there is a gas leak in your home.

Solution: Call 911 immediately if you notice any potential signs of a gas leak.

Final Thoughts

Opening a higher-than-expected natural gas bill is not a pleasant experience. While you, unfortunately, can’t do much about the current bill you’re looking at, implementing some of the changes and recommendations shared above can help keep future costs down. Consider keeping up with basic maintenance tasks, lowering the temperature on your thermostat, improving your home’s insulation, or contacting a professional to explore whether your outdated furnace should be replaced. A few changes can help offset rising natural gas supply rates.