The sting of winter is two-fold – families in much of the United States endure bitterly cold weather, and have to shell out a fortune in heating bills while they are at it. If you still use oil or electricity to fuel your furnace, however, you may have an option to cut back on the heat bills by replacing the old heater with a model that runs on gas. If you live near a gas main and are considering making the switch, read on to learn the pros and cons of installing a natural gas furnace.

Significant Savings on Your Heat and Air Conditioning Bills

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average home with an oil furnace will spend $1,392 in fuel bills this winter, compared to $930 for homes with electric resistance heaters. Although down from previous years, both those figures are far higher than the $578 that the average natural gas-using household will spend on heating bills. That's significant savings – and once you get a gas line installed, you can also hook up other appliances like your water heater and dryer for even more efficiency.

Purchasing a new furnace, however, is one of the largest household expenditures you can undertake – total costs can range anywhere from a few thousand dollars to well over $10,000, depending on your needs and what model you decide on. If you have a gas main nearby but need to install piping to your home, that's a few thousand more, although the utility company may be willing to cover part or all of that cost. Given the upfront expenses, unless you have plenty of money to burn, it may be worthwhile to hold off on the switch until your current furnace reaches the end of its lifespan.

When It's Time to Take the Plunge

If it's time to replace your furnace or boiler anyway, and you have access to a natural gas line, the decision is a no-brainer. The older your furnace is, the better you will fare by replacing it. Look for signs that your equipment is struggling – if it is lagging in efficiency, needs frequent repairs, is not reflecting the temperature you set the thermostat to or is becoming excessively noisy, those are all red flags. Most furnaces need replacement after about 15-20 years.

If you have a breakdown and an expensive repair bill looming, that can give you an incentive to make the switch to gas and lock in years of lower fuel costs. Some households might find that their best choice is to go with a heat pump, instead, but even the latest in heat pumps, which save piles of money compared to oil and resistance heat, can ring up higher bills than gas, depending on the variable swings of the fuel market.

Bringing Efficiency to Your Heat and Air Conditioning System

Don't forget, there's more to efficiency than your fuel type. No matter what you use to heat your home, you will surely see an uptick in efficiency if you purchase a new model, since federal standards keep rising and the technology continues to get more advanced.

If you need advice on installing a new heat and air conditioning system in your home, contact a qualified local HVAC technician today.

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