New Mexico might be in the desert, but as any good New Mexican knows, temperatures do drop significantly in winter here (and it snows, too!). And while adobe—the great stuff many New Mexican homes are made of—is a mighty fine insulator, it isn’t enough to keep out all the cold.
So, here are a few cost-effective ways to keep your home warm this winter without burning a hole in your pocket:
1. Seal air leaks and drafts
30 percent of a home’s heat can escape through undetected cracks and holes around windows and doors, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. This doesn’t just make for a drafty house—such leakage can translate into a 50-75 percent increase in fuel bills.
Prevent heat loss by sealing all air leaks and drafts with a low-expansion foam spray, available at most hardware stores for around $10.
You can also use a “draft snake,” which is anything from a rolled up towel to a DIY pillow made for the bottom of a door or window (the latter option may also be a fun project to do with your kids).
2. Cover windows with insulation film
It may not be the most fashionable tip, but window insulation film can keep up to 70% of your heat from leaking out of windows. Cost: window insulation film kits run between $20 and $35.
3. Clean, clean, clean
Winterizing your home isn’t just about retaining heat. Cold weather does everything from nip your nose to freeze your pipes and trip up your furnace. Do your best to prevent these winter woes by maintaining your property. Remove mold and dust from air ducts and vents, clear leaves and other organic matter from gutters and the roof, and sweep soot, ash, leaves and bird nests from the chimney. Cost: A little time and elbow grease. It sounds like a lot of cleaning, but think of it this way: one weekend of household chores is far better—and cheaper—than a preventable mid-winter misfortune.
4. Regularly replace furnace filters
A furnace filter’s job is to collect particles and sediment, but if it becomes over-saturated with debris, it will hinder the unit’s efficiency and longevity. Replace filters roughly once a month (depending on use) to keep the furnace functioning at its best. Cost: a new filter runs about $10.
5. Give your thermostat a check-up
Check your thermostat to ensure it works properly. Replace old thermostats with newer, programmable models that allow you to set a lower temperature while you are away or asleep and raise the temperature only when you need it. According to the Department of Energy, lowering the temperature about 10 degrees for eight hours a day may save you up to 10 percent a year. Cost: Free, unless you opt to hire a professional to perform the assessment.
6. Flush the water heater
Particles and sediment can collect over time in the bottom of your water heater, hindering the unit’s efficiency. Flush the water through the drain valve to clear out the material. Cost: totally free.
7. Insulate your pipes
Insulated pipes are happy pipes. They’re also cost-effective and will save you money on hot water. They’ll also save you from the nightmare that is a frozen or burst pipe. To know if you’re pipes are good candidates for insulation, check and see if they are warm to the touch. If they are warm, you should insulate them. You can purchase pre-slit pipe foam (it sort of looks like a beer koozie for plumbing pipes) from most hardware stores. Trim it to size and attach with duct tape. Cost: One foam roll can cost you anywhere between a $1.50 and $3.
8. Research tax credits for energy efficient projects
There are several state and federal tax credits available to New Mexicans who install energy efficient or renewable energy projects in their homes. For instance, the federal government will reimburse you for 30% of the cost of pipe insulation, up to $500. For more available tax credits, rebates and savings in New Mexico, and to see if you qualify for them, visit energy.gov.
I hope these tips keep you warm and toasty. Do you have winter insulation tips of your own that you’d like to share? Leave a comment in the comment section below.