Even if you’re frugal with your thermostat, sit down before opening your bill from Southwest Gas.
Compared to last winter, there was a 37 percent increase in gas prices coupled with a decrease in temperatures, said Libby Howell, Southwest Gas spokeswoman.
“That’s a big increase,” she said. “People are using more, and gas is costing more.”
Southwest Gas sells in therms. The cost per therm last year was 64 cents; now it is 88 cents.
Howell said the average therm use for Tucson customers is 45 per month. Some customers use gas only for heating their homes; others use it to heat water and cook as well.
She said newer, energy-efficient homes also don’t use as many therms per month.
The cooler weather hit even Howell in the pocketbook. Her monthly gas bill went up almost $35 over last year.
Howell said she and her husband used only four more therms than last year.
She said they experimented with their bill over the past 11 months by programming their thermostat 2 degrees lower than the year before. At home they used 92 therms during the last billing period, while in January 2006 they used 88.
Even with the increase in price, the most important factor in heat use was how warm it got during the day.
“The highs were not so high,” she said. “The house doesn’t get warmed up during the day.”
According to the National Weather Service, the average high so far this month is 60.1 degrees. The average high for January 2006 was 69.6 degrees.
The coldest day, said meteorologist Steven Reedy, was Jan. 14, when it reached 45 degrees.
Tucson’s snow day, Monday, reached 47 degrees.
Southwest Gas calculates heating days as the difference between the day’s average temperature and 65 degrees. The sum equals “heating days.”
A day when the average temperature is 40 degrees would count as 25 heating days.
From Dec. 1, 2005, to Jan. 15, 2006, there were 507 heating days, Howell said. From Dec. 1, 2006, to Jan. 15 of this year, Howell said, the heating days increased to 735.
The logic is simple. The more heating days there are, the more gas used and the higher the bill, she said.
TIPS FOR SAVING ENERGY
• Save about 2 percent of your heating bill for each degree that you lower the thermostat.
• Make it a habit to clean or replace furnace or air-conditioning filters monthly. Clogged filters waste energy and make your heating and cooling system work harder than necessary.
• Southwest Gas recommends that qualified contractors inspect your natural gas furnace annually to help ensure that it is operating safely and efficiently.
• Caulking and weather stripping around doors and windows and inexpensive switch-plate gaskets between the outlet and an exterior wall will prevent the loss of precious energy dollars. About 2 percent of the heat loss in your home can occur through switch and plug outlets on exterior walls.
• During the heating season, open shades, blinds and draperies in rooms that receive direct sunlight, to take advantage of the sun’s warmth. Be sure to close them before the sun sets, to preserve the heat.
• When you’re not using your fireplace, make sure you close the damper to keep the warmth of your home from escaping up the chimney. Also, keep the glass doors on you fireplace closed when it’s not in use.
• Washing full loads when using your dishwasher and washing machine saves time, detergent and energy. An automatic dishwasher uses the same amount of hot water for both small and full loads. Drying laundry loads one after another dries clothes faster because the dryer doesn’t have to reheat after each load. Make sure you clean the lint filter after every load to save energy and speed drying time.
• Preheat your oven only when needed and never for more than 10 minutes. Arrange the racks before you turn on the oven, because it loses about 20 percent of its heat every time the door is opened. Using a timer instead of frequently opening the door to check on food will also save energy.
• Install low-flow showerheads and faucets. Use cold-water laundry detergents, along with a warm wash-cool rinse settings, which can help save energy and reduce costs.
Source: Southwest Gas Corp.