During the winter of 2021-2022, homeowners across the United States — including New Mexico — can expect to pay more for their heating bills. An Energy Information Administration report predicts that U.S. households will spend more money on propane, heating oil, electricity, and natural gas this year than in previous ones. This contrast is especially stark since last year households experienced multi-year lows due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It comes down to supply and demand. This year, demand is up for heating fuels and fuel inventories are down. Prices have responded accordingly. The EIA forecast also considers that weather experts are predicting a colder-than-average winter season. Those who heat their homes with natural gas can expect to pay 30% more, experts say. Households that use electricity for heat will experience a less dramatic increase of only 6% on their heating bills.
With prices increasing, it’s advantageous for households to winterize their homes. Doing a few quick and easy inspections and home repairs can maximize your heating system’s efficiency and keep bills in check. Read on for a winterizing checklist and recommendations about what to do if you find your home isn’t quite as cozy as you’d hope it would be.
Home Winterizing Checklist
- Weatherproof your home. In northern and central New Mexico, the winds can be absolutely harsh with the windchill factor getting into the negatives. A drafty home isn’t just an inconvenience that will have you reaching for another throw blanket; it can cause dramatic heat sinks. Inspect your home for drafty areas such as windows and doors. If you feel warm air escaping or cool air coming in, install weather stripping around the doors and windows. Door sweeps are also cost-effective ways to stop the cold. Consider installing a storm door outside exterior doors for additional insulation. If these steps haven’t stopped the heat loss, re-caulk the seals around your windows or install a window insulation kit (essentially a plastic seal that covers the inside of the window.)
- Protect windows from heat loss. Many older homes in New Mexico don’t have double-paned, insulating glass windows. Adobe, stucco, and other building materials that haven’t been maintained can be conductive to air leaks. Window upgrades can fix this problem, but if replacement is too pricey, consider installing thermal-lined curtains or insulated blinds. These window treatments will help prevent cold air from flowing in and heat escaping. Open south-facing window coverings during the day to allow heat in, but keep them closed at night to prevent heat loss.
- Check your attic. Not many homes in New Mexico have attics. If your residence is one of the few that does, think about this area of the home as a potential heat sink. Is your attic insulated? If not, insulating it could drastically reduce your heating costs. Secondly, check the door leading from the main dwelling areas to the attic for heat loss. If you feel cold air coming in, apply weather stripping to prevent airflow.
- Hire a professional to inspect your furnace. With a dirty filter, your furnace may run longer than designed to heat your home to the desired temperature. We can assist with filter replacement or checking to make sure debris isn’t blocking airflow. Furnace filters should be replaced every three months. You may find that in the dusty climate of Santa Fe and Albuquerque, you need to replace or clean the filter more frequently.
- Manage the heat sources and airflow of your home. There are simple steps you can take daily to keep your heating bill in check. For example, closing the doors to and/or heating vents in unused rooms can funnel warm air into occupied areas. Using a humidifier, which is especially useful in New Mexico’s dry climate, can make the air feel warmer. That may mean you can turn the thermostat down a bit. Use exhaust fans in the kitchen and bathroom sparingly; these fans vent warm air to the outside.
- Avoid using your fireplace to heat your home. Although wood burning fires may be aesthetically pleasing, they aren’t efficient ways to warm a space. Most of the heat goes up the chimney. If you’re able, enjoy a fire for its comfort, but not as a heating solution.
- Get a programmable or smart thermostat. Programmable and smart thermostats are the most efficient ways to manage temperature control. You can use them to increase your dwelling’s temperature during the day, and drop it at night or while you’re away from home. You should also make sure your thermostat is calibrated properly.
How Aztec Mechanical Can Help
As full-service HVAC experts for home and commercial properties, Aztec Mechanical can ensure your heating system is working safely and efficiently. We offer 24-hour heater repair services as well as helping put together a preventative maintenance plan. We can also recommend and install the best smart thermostat for you and ensure that it’s properly calibrated to maximize your home’s winter heating efficiency. Contact us to get started today!