Energy-efficiency tips for a festive holiday season
by Miranda Boutelle, Contributing Columnist
Q: How can I save energy at home during the holiday season?
A: The holidays are a magical time when we come together with our loved ones. It’s also the most expensive time of year for many of us. Along with the costs of gifts, meals and travel comes colder weather and darker nights that lead to more electricity use.
One way to reduce the financial burden is by implementing efficiency tips to use less energy at home.
If you are hosting guests, your household will consume more electricity than normal. Be prepared with efficiency basics:
• Program your thermostat at 68 degrees when you are home, and lower it eight to 10 degrees when you leave the house or go to sleep.
• Run the clothes washer on cold with full loads.
• When not in use, turn off lights and the TV; fully shut down computers and gaming systems instead of putting them in sleep or standby mode.
• Lower the thermostat when guests are over or when cooking food. Turn down the heat in areas of the house that you are not using.
Use the oven light to check food. Every time the oven door is opened, the temperature inside is reduced by up to 25 degrees, according to the Department of Energy. When possible, make use of a slow cooker, microwave, toaster oven or warming plate. According to DOE, a toaster oven can use up to half the energy of the average electric stove in the same cooking time.
Let hot food cool to room temperature before placing it inside the refrigerator. This ensures you don’t increase the temperature inside your fridge and cause it to use more energy to cool down. You can also take some of the stress and expense out of holiday cooking by asking guests to bring a dish.
This year, make the switch to LEDs for all your holiday lighting. LED holiday lights consume 70% less energy than conventional incandescent light strands. For example, it costs 27 cents to light a 6-foot tree for 12 hours a day for 40 days with LEDs, compared with $10 for incandescent lights.
Pick up a few light timers so you don’t have to remember to unplug your lights every evening. You can also choose to upgrade to smart holiday lights that offer a wide range of app-controlled options, including time, colors, music and modes.
If you’re visiting family and friends during the holidays, prepare your home to use less energy while you’re away.
Water heating is the second-largest energy expense in your home, accounting for about 18% of your utility bill, according to DOE. Switching your water heater to vacation mode or lowering the setting will reduce wasted energy by keeping the water at a lower temperature.
Set your thermostat to around 55 degrees so you are not overheating the home while you’re away.
Instead of leaving lights on all day, consider upgrading a lamp or fixture to a smart lightbulb. This allows you to control lights from afar and set a schedule for the light to go on and off. Another option is to repurpose your holiday light timer for one of your living room lamps.
Miranda Boutelle writes on energy-efficiency topics for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.