By Miranda Boutelle
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 to share food, gifts and quality time. It’s also the most expensive time of year for many of us. Along with the expense of gifts, meals and travel comes colder weather and darker nights that lead to more electricity use and higher bills.
One way to reduce the financial burden of the most wonderful time of year is by implementing efficiency tips for the holidays to use less energy at home and lower your monthly bills.
If you are hosting guests, your household will consume more electricity than normal.
• Have your thermostat programmed at 68 degrees when you are home and dialed back 8 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 the lights and television; fully shut down computers and gaming systems instead of putting them in sleep or standby mode.
• Lower the thermostat when guests are over or cooking food. Most gatherings happen in the center of the home, so save energy by turning the heat down in areas you are not using.
Lower energy use in the kitchen:
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, which use less energy than an oven and stovetop. According to the DOE, a toaster oven can use up to half the energy of the average electric stove over 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 refrigerator and cause it to use more energy to cool down. You can also take some of the stress and expense out of your holiday cooking by asking guests to bring a dish.
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 to $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.
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 the DOE. Switching your water heater to vacation mode will reduce wasted energy by keeping the water at a lower temperature. If your water heater does not have vacation mode on the dial, you can adjust it to the lowest setting.
Set your thermostat to around 55 degrees so you’re not wasting energy to heat 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.
Lower your energy bills this holiday season with these simple efficiency tips for the holidays.
Miranda Boutelle is the vice president of operations and customer engagement at Efficiency Services Group in Oregon, a cooperatively owned energy efficiency company. She also writes on energy efficiency topics for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.