Decorate, celebrate and save
For many of us, the holidays involve twinkling lights, home-cooked meals and wonderful aromas of favorite foods and baked goods. It means bright decorations, a busy kitchen and a house full of family and friends. All the hustle, bustle, decorating and celebrating can mean a lot of energy use. But a higher-than-normal electric bill in January doesn’t have to be the last gift of the season.
These ideas can help you decorate, celebrate and save energy during the holidays.
Brightest house on the block
Start with energy-efficient lighting, namely light-emitting diodes (LEDs). While a string of traditional mini-lights uses 36 watts of power, LEDs use only 5 watts and can last up to 10 times longer. LEDs are typically made of plastic and will not break, and many are brighter than traditional mini-lights.
However, a string of LEDs can cost two to three times more than traditional lights, and many homeowners have reported mixed results with performance. Unlike traditional bulbs, LEDs use computer chips to create light. Depending on the quality of the manufacturing process, the brightness and life may not be what’s expected. A good rule of thumb: cheaper is not always better. When looking for LEDs, view the lights plugged in at the store, or make sure you can return them if they do not meet your expectation.
All holiday lights, whether LED or incandescent, should be placed on a timer. Simple timers cost less than $20. It’s usually best to leave lights on only from sunset until bedtime.
Energy efficient gifts
Electronic gifts can be “energy vampires” — sucking electricity 24 hours a day, even when switched off. Cell phone and tablet chargers, game consoles and any device with a large square plug is likely an energy vampire.
When possible, unplug electronics that are not being used, or plug them into a smart power strip. Look for a smart power strip that lets you control the flow of electricity to specific devices. You can cut the flow of electricity to unused devices such as DVD players, game consoles and stereo systems, while allowing TVs and satellite or cable boxes to remain in operation. To keep your home entertainment center running lean, look for EnergyStar rated TVs and energy-efficient satellite or cable boxes.
Kitchen carb (carbon) cutting
If the kitchen is the “heart” of your holiday home, it can also help pump savings back into your wallet. According to the Department of Energy, cooking accounts for 4.5 percent of total energy use in U.S. homes. When combined with the energy needed for refrigeration, dishwashing and water heating, the kitchen can account for as much as 15 percent of home energy use. Saving energy in your holiday kitchen can have an impact on your energy bill.
- When preparing side dishes, baked goods, soups and such, consider using small appliances like a crock pot, toaster oven, microwave or warming plate instead of your oven or stovetop. Small appliances are an energy-saving alternative, typically using about half the energy of a stove.
- When using the oven, don’t peek! Opening the oven door can drop the oven temperature by 25 degrees and make your stove use more energy to return to the desired temperature. If your recipe calls for baking the dish more than an hour, it is not necessary to preheat the oven. Also, if your oven is electric you can likely turn it off for the last five to ten minutes of cooking and let the residual heat complete the job. Clean burners and reflectors increase efficiency, so don’t neglect this small but important task.
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible so cold air doesn’t escape. However, leaving the door open for a longer period of time while you load groceries or remove items you need is more efficient than opening and closing it several times.
- Entertaining a large group? Give your furnace a break. When your oven is working hard and you have a house full of guests, heat from the stove and the extra people can keep your house comfortable and let you to turn down the thermostat.
Prevent post-holiday electric bill shock with energy-efficient decorating and cooking practices this year. The money you save can be used for the most dreaded January bills of all — credit cards.