Why is my house using so much gas?
October 18, 2007 3:01 PM   Subscribe

Why is my natural gas bill insane this month?

Last month, it appears that my household used an average of 11 cubic meters of natural gas per day versus the 2 that was the average last year for the same month. Needless to say, the gas bill was a bit higher than I expected.

The average monthly temperature has been about the same, but the only variable that has changed is that instead of having the fan on "auto" I've set it to "on" for the last few months to more evenly distribute the air throughout the house. Would that account for the much higher gas bill?

On occasion, my roommates leave the windows open with the heat on, how much would that account for?
posted by perpetualstroll to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
If your meter agrees with your bill, then you may have a leak somewhere. Since you'd probably smell it inside, maybe it's out.
posted by rokusan at 3:09 PM on October 18, 2007

Your household is doing the two things that will drastically increase your gas usage. Set your thermostat back to auto and remember the battle cry of mothers everywhere: "Are you trying to heat the whole outdoors?".
posted by padraigin at 3:11 PM on October 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Some gas companies don't read the meter every month, but estimate usage instead. Once the meter is read you might have an unusually high or unusually low bill.

It could be a leak. Go see how fast your meter is spinning when the furnace is off.
posted by yohko at 3:14 PM on October 18, 2007

I got an insane gas bill three or four years ago and it turned out I had been charged for my neighbor's gas (they left their heat on all the time), and vice versa. The meters are right beside each other, so apparently the meter-checker messed up. It was hellishly difficult to get the charges switched back, though, even when the utility company admitted they had made a mistake. (It was my landlord's fault for putting 'confusing numbering' on the meters, apparently.)
posted by frobozz at 3:14 PM on October 18, 2007

Unless you've also had the heat on unusually high, or your HVAC fan is powered by natural gas (unlikely), running the fan on "on" instead of auto shouldn't hurt your gas bill unless it is cooling the house so much that it's kicking the heat on more often. Which is possible, if it's been cool enough and your roommates have been leaving the windows open a lot.

You can have your meter rechecked, though, as a start. They should be able to tell by watching it (with you there to confirm everything's normal in the house) if there's a leak.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:30 PM on October 18, 2007

You can check if there is a leak yourself if you are willing to do a little legwork and know how to relight your pilot lights. Turn everything that uses gas off, including pilot lights. Go outside and watch the smallest dial (1/2 cubic ft usually). relight things one by one and observe usage.
posted by true at 4:25 PM on October 18, 2007

Do you have a natural gas fed barbeque?
posted by porpoise at 4:38 PM on October 18, 2007

I'm seconding checking whether you'd been getting estimated bills for a long time. This happened to us some years ago; we suddenly got a bill for hundreds more than we were used to paying and it was because it had been almost three years since the company had actually done a meter read. Someone told me just lately that where we live there is a shortage of meter-readers, so estimated bills are typical.

When I called the company about it, they spread the extra charge over several months for me, and adjusted the estimated amount.
posted by not that girl at 5:26 PM on October 18, 2007

Seconding not that girl. Why on earth they're allowed to charge you [my local utility does not refund, btw - eventually you get a zero bill] in advance is beyond me.
posted by beezy at 5:29 PM on October 18, 2007

Call your gas company. If you are getting bills based on estimated readings, then you may be entitled to a credit. Laclede (here in St. Louis) will send you a pack of postcards so that you read the meter once a month and mail it into them. If you read your own and there is an overage with the estimated reading, they will credit your overpayment.
posted by pieoverdone at 5:51 PM on October 18, 2007

Is it colder this year than it was at the same time last year? Maybe you're using more heat.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 8:29 PM on October 18, 2007

Leaving windows open with the heat on is insane. Unless you live in the upper floors of an old apartment building with no other way to control the temperature when the landlord turns the heat on.

Also, it's possible the thermostat/heater is wired up incorrectly so that Fan On actually runs the heat. Does hot air come out all the time? Can you check the heater to see if the gas is starting and stopping? Correct wiring should only increase your electric bill.
posted by 6550 at 11:07 PM on October 18, 2007

Was there any new construction in your neighborhood? Did someone get a new HVAC or hot water heater? Sometimes one neighbor is accidentally taping into your line. I worked in the energy industry for a few years, it's more common than you think.

To your specific questions:

- Windows open with heat on? Yes, that will greatly increase your bill depending on how often you do that.

- Can the fan increase the bill. Yes, if the fan is blowing the warm air away from the thermostat. In that case the heat could be kicking on more often. Though the amount of your increase makes that unlikely.

Call your gas company and ask them to determine the source of the increased usage. They should come out and check for leaks immediately. They will also do an energy audit to explain your usage.
posted by 26.2 at 10:51 AM on October 23, 2007

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