‘Tis the season of good cheer, twinkling lights and family and friends. ‘Tis also the season of endless parties, houses packed with relatives and, unfortunately, some unintended expenses. Look, we like this time of year as much as anyone—it’s just that it can be spendy enough without the additional shock of huge energy bills. So, this year, as you count your blessings and look forward to the coming new year, you might give a thought or two to some simple things you can do that will help you save money, reduce energy consumption and, in general, feel swell about your efforts to maintain an energy-efficient home throughout your holiday celebrations.
Save Big With Smarter Decorating
Festive lights are a staple of the holiday season. However, the energy it takes to power these little bundles of joy can cause you to lose your holiday cheer faster than you can say “pass the eggnog.” To avoid holiday aftershock, consider some lighting alternatives that are both festive and frugal.
- Those old incandescent holiday lights you have been using forever are terribly inefficient and, despite careful storage, often damage easily and end up in the trash. Make the switch to ENERGY STAR® qualified LEDs (Light-Emitting Diodes). They may cost more initially, but LEDs use up to 70% less energy than traditional bulbs. Plus, they are sturdier and typically last much longer.1
- Plug your indoor and outdoor lights into a timer to lower energy consumption and reduce your energy bills.
- Try limiting the amount of time the lights are on by waiting until dark to light up the neighborhood. And always turn them off before you go to bed. This is where a timer can really come in handy.
- If you’re really adventurous, try using fiber optic decorations. Fiber optic trees and decorations are the ultimate in energy efficiency. In most cases, they use a single light bulb to light the entire decoration. Talk about energy-smart.
Save Energy in the Kitchen
Another area where energy use is frequently overlooked is in the kitchen—even more so over the holidays when your stove, oven, and dishwasher are running overtime, not to mention the door to your refrigerator opening and closing as family members sample your culinary delights.
- Using the right-sized pots on stove burners can save about $36 annually for an electric range or $18 for gas. This way more heat will get to the pan and less will be lost to the surrounding air.1
- Don’t open the oven door to peek at what’s cooking inside. Instead, turn on the oven light and check the cooking status through the oven window to prevent heat loss. Opening the oven door increases cooking time and wastes energy.
- Don’t overlook the other cooking appliances over the holidays. Try doing some of your cooking in a crockpot, which uses less electricity than an electric oven.
- As long as your oven is on, you can also reduce your energy consumption by cooking several items at the same time.
Preparing Your Home for an Energy-Wise Holiday
Thankfully, it’s not difficult to keep your home warm and comfy while keeping energy costs at a minimum.
- By installing and setting a programmable thermostat, you can save money on your energy bills. In fact, lowering your thermostat 10-15 degrees for 8 hours can save 5–15% a year on heating bills.1
- Turn the thermostat down when guests are over. All those extra bodies in the house mean extra warmth at no cost to you.
- Start the heating season with a new furnace filter to keep your furnace running efficiently.
- If you use your fireplace—and who doesn’t over the holidays?—be sure to seal your fireplace’s chimney flue. Caulking around your hearth, installing tempered glass doors and adding a heat-air exchange system to blow warmed air back into the room will also help keep the warm air in your house and the cold air out.
- Weatherize your windows—installing storm windows can cut heat loss by 25–50%.1
- Let the sunshine in by opening curtains during the day. It’s a great way to naturally warm your home. Be sure to close them at night to reduce the chill from cold windows.
Give the Gift of Energy Efficiency
Here are a few energy-efficient gift ideas that will surely brighten someone’s holiday.
- If you are buying gifts that require batteries, consider purchasing rechargeable batteries and an ENERGY STAR® battery charger. In the U.S. alone, more energy-efficient battery chargers could save families more than $170 million annually.
- Someone in the family is bound to have computers, TVs or other electronics on their wish list. You can make them and the person paying the electric bills happy when you purchase ENERGY STAR home electronics. An ENERGY STAR computer, for instance, can save 30–65% more energy compared to a computer without this designation.1 And for the gamers on your list, consider the Wii. According to Electric Power Research Institute, the Wii uses less than one-sixth the power consumed by other popular consoles.
- For more great energy-smart gift ideas, visit our online store at energizeefficiently.coop/efficiency-store.
Save Energy While on Vacation
Before you head out the door, take some simple steps to save energy and money.
- Unplug your electronics and appliances before leaving.
- Program your thermostat at a lower temperature than usual for added energy savings.
- Turn off the lights. And for lights on a security timer, use CFLs or LEDs, which provide about a 75% energy savings.2
- Turn down your water heater—water heating can account for 14–25% of the energy consumed in your home and a large percentage of the cost of running a water heater is “stand by” loss.2
As you can see, whether you’re shooting for the best lighting display on the block, or you’re simply looking for some practical gift ideas this holiday season, keeping energy efficiency in mind is easy to do. It’s a gift you and your family can enjoy all year long.