|Residential > Lowering Your Winter Heating Bills
When the weather turns cold, natural gas bills typically go up about five times higher than during the summer. Furnaces are the single biggest user of natural gas. The biggest factor in the amount of your gas bill is the volume of natural gas you use.
You can control the temperature you set your thermostat during the day and night, the square footage you heat, hot water use,your home's insulation and weatherization, the age and energy efficiency of your appliances and your conservation efforts.
There are simple things you can do to help you lower your winter heating bills and reduce your natural gas usage.
Steps you can take right away
Close your evaporative (“swamp”) cooler dampers before winter. Popularly called a “cookie sheet” damper, it looks like a big square cookie sheet. Sliding it into place will stop cold air from coming indoors and keep warm air from escaping outside through the opening to your swamp cooler. Alternately, some swamp cooler models are designed to be covered for the winter.
Prevent warm air from escaping by making sure your fireplace dampers are closed when not in use.
Set your thermostat only to the temperature you would like to reach. Turning it to the highest temperature does not warm up a cold building any faster. A thermostat is not like the gas pedal on your car.
Furnaces run more during the night when the outside temperatures drop. Lowering your thermostat 5 to 10 degrees at night, or when you’re not at home, can help save energy. A programmable thermostat can do this for you. Keep in mind that for health and safety, homes with elderly or ill people and infants need to be kept warmer.
Close off vents and doors to rooms and areas of the house that are unused. Make sure there are no exposed pipes in those areas that could freeze.
Maintain the humidity inside your home at 20 to 40 percent during the winter to help you feel warmer. A humidifier, aquariums and houseplants can help add humidity.
Caulk, seal and weather-strip seams, cracks and openings where warm air can escape and cold air can come into your home, such as around windows and doors, electrical outlets, light and plumbing fixtures, attic entrances, ducts and chimney flashing.
For the safety of you and others, New Mexico Gas Company service technicians recommend that you have your furnace professionally checked every year before turning it on at the start of each winter to make sure it is operating safely and efficiently. Please visit our webpage Furnace Safety Checks, for safety checks.
Change your furnace filter once a month during the winter heating season to help your furnace work more efficiently and reduce your heating costs. Your monthly gas bill can be a reminder.
Open the drapes when the sun is shining and close them at night to help retain inside heat.
Keep heater registers and radiators free from obstructions so the warm air can circulate. And be careful not to block the vents in areas where gas appliances are stored.
Lower your hot water use and water heating costs. The largest user of natural gas in your home, after your home’s furnace, is your water heater. As much as 25 percent of every energy dollar goes towards heating water.
If you have a water heater manufactured before 2001 or with an R-value under R-24, you may benefit by adding water heater wrap insulation. See our webpage Water Heater Savings for more information.
By using less hot water, you will use less energy.
- Clean and wash clothes using cold water as much as possible. Set the proper water level for your laundry load size to conserve hot water.
- Check your faucets for leaks that waste water and energy.
- Lower your water heater's temperature setting to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Please visit the page on our website, Water Heater Safety, for more information on water heater safety.
- Consider insulating your water pipes, even just the first three feet of pipes entering and leaving the water heater tank can save energy.
- Install low-flow showerheads and faucets to conserve hot water. A new showerhead can save as much as $10 a year in water and energy. Visit our webpage, Low flow Showerheads for more information and our special rebate offer.
- Turn the water heat thermostat down or off when you’re gone for more than three days. Many new water heaters have a "vacation" setting you can use.
- Twice a year (or every other month if you have hard water), drain a bucket of water from your hot water heater storage tank. This removes sediment which absorbs heat energy and results in higher heating costs.
- If you’re building a new home, locate the water heater as close as possible to the kitchen, laundry room and bathrooms to reduce heat lost as it moves through long pipes.
- A bath uses about five times the hot water of a shower.
- Visit our webpage Water Heater Savings for information on purchasing energy efficient hot water heaters and appliances.
Longer-term steps you can take
Check insulation levels in your attic, exterior and basement walls, ceilings, floors and crawl spaces.
Adding insulation to the attic is a relatively easy and cost effective measure. To learn if you have enough attic insulation, measure the thickness of your existing insulation and if it is less than R- 30 (11 inches of fiber glass or rock wool or 8 inches of= cellulose), you can probably benefit by adding more.
If your home is older, consider adding insulation to reduce your energy costs. Only about 20 percent of homes built before 1980 are well-insulated by today’s energy efficiency standards. While adding insulation to exterior walls, crawl spaces or basements is more expensive and usually requires a contractor, it may be worthwhile.
If, from inside, your door to the outside feels colder than the inside walls, it might be time to install a better insulated door.
Consider installing storm or thermal windows and doors, or double-paned glass. A less expensive alternative is to use plastic sheeting to help prevent drafts and retain heat.
For more information on insulation, including insulation rebates, visit our webpage Residential Insulation Rebate. There, you’ll also find additional resources and information on insulating your home from the U.S. Department of Energy, including recommended insulation levels and cost analyses.
Consider a home energy audit to identify areas of your home using the most energy and for suggestions on effective energy conservation measures for your home. Visit energysavers.gov or natresnet.org for information, tools and calculators.
When purchasing a new gas water heater or other gas appliances, look for energy efficient models. The yellow EnergyGuide stickers makes comparison shopping easy. For more information on shopping for energy efficient appliances, see Facts for Consumers from the Federal Trade Commission here.
More energy saving tips
For many more energy saving tips, you may download a copy of the booklet, Energy Savers — Tips on Saving Energy & Money at Home, from the U.S. Dept. of Energy here.
A free (pdf) newsletter for our customers, Tips For Conserving Energy and Lowering Your Winter Heating Bills, may also be downloaded by clicking here.
Rebates! For information on our energy efficiency rebates on the purchase of energy-efficient products for your home or business, please visit the Energy Efficiency links on the left.
Information on Energy Efficiency Assistance for income-qualified customers is available here.