The average cost of gas per month in the U.S. has hovered around $60 in recent years. Your household’s cost could be much lower or higher, depending on your location, the appliances you use, inflation, and the ever-fluctuating cost of natural gas. Your bill might be much higher, for example, than that of a friend who has the same size house in a state with a warmer climate. And it could be less than what your next door neighbor pays, if your home is smaller or more energy efficient.
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Why Is My Gas Bill Higher than Usual?
If your gas bill seems higher than usual, it could be that your provider is charging a higher rate. (You can check that by comparing two or more months’ worth of gas bills, or credit card statements if that’s how you pay your bills.) It could also be that you’re simply using more gas because it’s colder outside. Or maybe you’ve been taking more hot showers or running the dishwasher, clothes dryer, or gas fireplace more often. Working from home is a common reason that utility bills are sometimes higher.
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If you can’t come up with a reasonable answer for the cost increase, you may want to talk to your gas provider or check your statement to see if your usage is up. But be prepared: The calculations that go into determining your monthly gas bill can be complicated.
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Understanding the Monthly Cost of Gas
In the U.S., natural gas can be priced in a few different ways, including dollars per therm, dollars per British thermal unit (BTU), and dollars per cubic foot.
Here’s what you really need to know: According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the price residential customers pay for natural gas is determined by two major factors:
- Commodity Cost: The actual cost of the gas.
- Transmission and Distribution Costs: The costs involved with moving the natural gas from where it’s produced or stored to a local natural gas distribution utility, plus whatever it costs to deliver the gas to customers.
If you live in a state with easy access to residential gas (Alaska, Utah, Washington, Colorado), the monthly rate you pay may be lower than if your utility has to transport the gas a long distance to reach you (in say, Hawaii or Georgia).
The price you ultimately pay for natural gas in your state, city, or subdivision also may be affected by state regulations, taxes and other charges, availability, seasonal consumer demand, and the amount of competition in your location. (By the way, there’s no relation between the cost of natural gas and the price of gasoline.)
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Average Gas Bill Based on Household Size
Knowing the natural gas rates in your area can help you understand why your bills might be higher or lower than you expected. But the size of your home and the number of people who live there can also influence your average monthly gas bill. Keeping these things in mind can help you predict your gas usage when you make a budget.
Here’s a rough estimate of what the average monthly cost of gas could be for various household sizes, according to ElectricRate.com:
Remember that your costs may be much different depending on how many gas appliances you have in your home, how warm you keep your home in the winter, what you keep the temperature set to on your water heater, and other factors.
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What Uses the Most Gas in a Home?
The top uses for natural gas in U.S. households are heating and water heating. But many homes also use gas for cooking, indoor or outdoor fireplace, clothes dryer, or heating a pool.
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How Can I Lower My Gas Bill?
There are several steps you can take to lower your natural gas bill. (You may be interested in lowering your other gas bill, too.)
Get a Home Energy Assessment
A professional home energy auditor looks at your past bills for information about your energy use, and inspects your home to pinpoint problem areas and offer money-saving suggestions. Your gas company may offer assessments to its customers, or you may be able to get help finding an energy audit program through your state or local government.
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Balance Costs Across the Year
If your local utility offers a yearly budget plan, you may be able to spread out your costs so that your bill is roughly the same amount each month. This can keep bills from becoming overwhelming in months when you use more gas. Or you can use a money tracker app to determine your average monthly cost of gas and set aside the appropriate amount.
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Lower Your Water Heater Temperature
When was the last time you even looked at your water heater? Lowering the temperature to 120 degrees can help you save money, prevent family members from accidentally scalding themselves, and protect your pipes. You can also purchase a special blanket or “jacket” to insulate your water heater and make it more efficient.
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Look for Leaks
If your doors and windows are getting older, check whether cold air is coming in and warm air escaping. Clear plastic film or weather stripping may be all you need to fix the problem.
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Lower the Thermostat
The U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting your thermostat at 68 degrees when you’re home during the winter, and turning it down a few degrees more when you’re away. If you keep pretty standard hours, a programmable thermostat can ensure the house is comfortable when you get home from school or work. And if you work from home, you can lower the temp when you go to bed, or pull on a sweater during the day.
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Assistance Programs to Help with Your Gas Bill
If you’re struggling to pay your gas bill, you may be able to get some help from a federal, state, or local government assistance program or from a nonprofit agency. Here are a few options to consider:
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Weatherization Assistance Program
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) helps low-income households reduce their energy costs. Program grants, which are administered on the state and local level, provide funding for home improvements designed to increase energy efficiency. For more information about the program and how to apply, check out the WAP website.
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Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), operated through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was created to help low-income households pay high home energy bills. Each state has its own rules regarding who is eligible for help and when and how to apply. (Assistance isn’t made directly to households.) For more information, go to the LIHEAP website or call 202-401-9351.
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Local Utility Company Programs
Some utility companies offer limited bill-paying assistance programs on their own or working alongside state agencies or nonprofit organizations. Check your local gas company’s website to see if they offer help, or try giving them a call. Your gas company may take special circumstances into consideration when it comes to paying your bill.
SoCalGas, for example, offers past-due bill forgiveness, discounted rates, and extended payment dates for certain qualifying customers. The utility also works with the United Way of Greater Los Angeles to provide one-time grants through their Gas Assistance Fund.
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The average cost of gas per month is $65 to $70. The location, size, and age of your home — and, of course, the time of year — can affect your gas bill from one month to the next. So can the number of people in your household and the appliances you use.
The rate you pay each month for gas may also fluctuate based on factors over which you have no control. All those things combined can make budgeting for your monthly gas bill a challenge.
This article originally appeared on SoFi.com and was syndicated by MediaFeed.org.
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