Economics & Weather

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Las Cruces is located in a high desert climate. The weather is characterized by low humidity and abundant sunshine. The low humidity and relatively high elevation contribute to the large temperature swings encountered during the year. The winter days are usually sunny and mild, with a substantial temperature drop at night.

The summer has hot days and cool nights with low humidity early in the summer, increasing in July and August. With the increase in population in Las Cruces and possibly influenced by global warming trends, both the humidity and ambient temperatures are slowly increasing.

Homes are heated predominately with natural gas in incorporated areas and propane outside of them. The most common heating systems are forced air systems without return-ducts and wall mounted heaters.

The most common cooling systems are evaporative (swamp) coolers, but the use of refrigerated air (air conditioning) is becoming more common. These systems usually use the same ductwork as the furnace uses in the winter. The ductwork is usually located in the ceiling or attic where it is subjected to extremes of temperature and where air leakage from the pressurized ductwork is lost from the building “envelope.” 20% loss of heating and cooling is not uncommon with these systems.

Evaporative coolers commonly use over 10,000 gallons of water yearly and require at least twice-yearly maintenance because of the sediments and salts left after the water has evaporated. Pads have to be replaced and the units themselves have a limited service life. Moderately large houses of 2400 sq ft typically require two coolers.

Refrigerated air systems, a.k.a. air conditioning, require less maintenance but have higher initial cost, typically $4000-$10000, and much higher energy costs, usually $300-$800 more per year on a moderately large house. However, electric generating stations consume a great deal of water, the additional use of which is invisible to the refrigerated air consumer while contributing to global warming.

“The square footage cost was high compared to homes in this area, but that was due to high quality stucco, roofing, insulation and other features that have saved money over time.”

Weather Considerations

  • Elevation 3850 to 4500 ft
  • 32°19’ N Latitude
  • Winter Design Temp 20F
  • Extreme Low Temperature 10F
  • Heating Degree Days/year ca 4000
    • Comparison:
    • New York City ~ 7000
    • Minneapolis ~ 10000
  • Summer Design Temp 97F
  • Extreme High Temperature 112F
  • Cooling Degree Days/year ca 1000
  • Daily temperature range 26F
  • Average Cloudy Days/year 9
  • Clear Day Solar Energy Available in January: 1900 BTU/Square Foot/Day (A BTU is approximately the heat released by a burning wooden matchstick)

Radiant Heating and Cooling

We always integrate the domestic hot water system with an active solar space heater. Then the system can produce savings 12 months a year. In this area domestic hot water heating requires as much energy as space heating.