the story behind natural gas
what can you do?
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There are two answers to this question. The first and most immediate answer is to switch to natural gas over other sources of energy such as fuel oil, coal, and electricity whenever possible (except, of course, if you are buying renewable energy!). It burns more efficiently, and produces far fewer harmful air emissions than other alternatives.
However, in the long run, it still makes sense to reduce use as much as possible. You are still contributing to global warming by burning natural gas, as over 13% of US natural gas is consumed in residences and still more is burned to produce residential electricity. And, the more consumption there is, the more drilling will be done and the more LNG ports will be built.
how to reduce your natural gas consumption
In most of the US, natural gas is used as a heating fuel and also to generate electricity. Natural gas usage varies greatly by state. In California, for instance, over 70% of all residences are heated via natural gas, and 38% of California’s electricity supply comes from natural gas-fired plants. However, Vermont is an entirely different story: less than 1% of electricity comes from natural gas plants (71% comes from nuclear energy), and almost 60% of houses are heated using fuel oil. If you use natural gas in your house, read on to find out the best ways to reduce your use.
The following are the largest uses of natural gas in a representative house, excluding electricity produced at natural gas generating plants (covered in the Electricity article):
- Residential space heating (70%)
- Water heating (22%)
- Cooking (4%)
- Other (2%)
- Clothes Dryer (1%)
There are many ways to reduce natural gas consumption. Efforts that reduce your heating needs are an obvious starting point – projects range from things as simple as reducing your thermostat by a few degrees in the winter to things as complex as replacing older windows with modern energy-efficient designs. Choose from the lists below to explore opportunities to reduce your environmental impact.
1. Reduce or eliminate use of natural gas in heating water.There are many options available for reducing the fuel needed to heat hot water. Installing a solar hot water heater could nearly eliminate the use of external fuel. Here are the top options for reducing water heating fuel.
- Install a solar hot water system for both residential and pool water heating. Depending on where you live, the use of a solar hot water system could reduce your dependence on natural gas for water heating by over 50%. And, due to federal and state rebates and incentives, solar hot water systems are more affordable than ever.
Find solar hot water installers in your area
- Replace your existing hot water heater with either a tankless or high efficiency hot water heater. Both of these options will reduce your water heating fuel use (and cost) by preventing the loss of heat while hot water sits in the tank. Insulating hot water piping can increase savings.
Find hot water heater installers in your area.
- Install Energy Star clothes washers and dishwashers. Today’s efficient appliances use less energy and less water, and will pay for themselves in savings during their lifetimes.
See recommended clothes washers and recommended dishwashers.
- Make easy changes to reduce hot water use. Some simple changes can save 10 – 25% of your water heating fuel. Set the thermostat on your water heater to the lowest setting—it will still be more than hot enough for all uses. And, run appliances on a water setting one notch below your normal setting—hot to warm, warm to cold.
2. Reduce natural gas use in home heating. Home heating is typically the greatest consumer of energy in the standard house. There are many ways to retrofit existing homes so that they consume far less energy.
- Raise wall and attic insulation levels. Many older homes either lack insulation (in southern states) or have inferior insulation installed at earlier times. There are options for adding insulation to existing homes with minimal disruption. Insulation made from recycled materials can be blown into attics or walls, and can pay for itself in less than ten years. There are also generous government and utility subsidies for these projects.
Find insulation contractors in your area.
- Install an Energy Star programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats save energy by setting temperatures higher or lower (depending on season) when you are not at home or while you are sleeping. They are easy to install, and can pay for themselves in less than two years. Review some models.
3. Have a home energy audit performed at your house. A home energy audit will look at all of the items above plus many more—how well your house is sealed, what your air ducts are like, and the condition and efficiency of furnaces and hot water heaters among others. The savings identified through an audit could pay for the audit itself many times over in a short period of time.
Find a home energy auditor in your area.
4. If you live in a state where natural gas is used to generate electricity, use less electricity. In states with natural gas power plants, your use of electricity will consume large amounts of natural gas. Read the following article to explore the best ways to reduce electricity use.
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