Understanding 50% Jump in Our Natural Gas Usage

As I reviewed our energy consumption for 2013, I noticed a shocking thing: our natural gas usage for December jumped by over 50% this year.  As a family that tries very hard to live green, save energy and has made numerous energy efficiency improvements, this was not the sign we wanted to see.

Our usage of natural gas in December 2013, which we use for heating, water heating, clothes drying and cooking, was 107 therms, up from 70 therms the previous December.  Yikes!  Almost all of it is used for heating.

The first thing I noticed, was that the December 2013 bill covered 34 days as compared to 29 days in 2012.  That’s 17% more days, which is a good start, but doesn’t explain the 52% increase.  

Next I considered our schedule.  Were we home more this year than last?  Not really, we may have even been gone more this year than last and had set the Programmable Thermostats to hold at 55°F both years while we were away.

The final thing I considered, which tickle my inner energy geek, is Heating Degree Days (HDD).  Turns out that December 2013 was a lot colder than 2012.  How much colder you ask, well by looking at the HDD, I can tell that in Medford, MA, we had a 23% increase in the need for heat in December 2013.

  • December 2013 – 818 HDD
  • December 2012 – 662 HDD
  • 23% increase in HDD from 2012 to 2013 source: Weather Data Depot
chart showing heating degree days in Medford, MA comparing 2013 to 2012

data from Weather Data Depot

If you want to learn more about heating and cooling degree days, how to use and calculate them, read my post from last March titled: Heating Degree Days and Cooling Degree Days.

Ok, so with a significant increase in the number of days on the bill and an even more significant need for heat, I can now relax a bit about the 50% increase in our heating bill.  Still, I’ll be going around and checking that all the windows are securely closed and making sure we don’t have any problems.

Happy Greening!

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  1. When you mentioned Heating Degree Days, I had to laugh a little. My dh, a building automation engineer, talks a lot about degree days especially when our oil bill shows up. I think it’s time I educated myself about the topic since I think we’ll be seeing a rise in our heating bills this winter.

  2. This winter has not been kind in the US. For now, the price of natural gas is pretty low, but that will change soon enough because fracked gas wells run out so quickly. I heard Shell has all but given up on its Marcellus shale holdings.

  3. I can definitely relate to heating consumption being higher this year. We use an outdoor wood furnace to heat our home/water in the winter, and we have used SO much more wood so far this year than we did last year. Ugh….

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