Simple ways to be more energy efficient this holiday season

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It takes a lot of energy to get through the holiday season – and we don’t mean just the personal pep you need for shopping and wrapping, baking and cooking, decorating and cleaning. No, the energy we’re talking about is all the energy and gasoline families will need during the holiday season. All that energy can add up in terms of impact on the environment, your utility bills and your wallet.

It is possible, however, to celebrate a more energy-efficient holiday season and reap the many rewards of being green. A few simple steps can ensure you’ll be saying “ho, ho, ho” and not “holy cow!” when you review your energy costs come January.

More efficient decorating

We’ve actually seen other blogs suggest you forego decorating with lights, but where’s the fun in that? A better option would be to replace all those strands of old, inefficient, unreliable incandescent mini lights with LEDs. Yes, you’ll initially pay more for LED lights than you would for a comparably sized strand of incandescents, but the energy savings and longevity provided by LED lights will make up for that extra bit of cost. Incandescent holiday lights are notorious for not working when a single bulb goes out, and it can seem like you’re replacing strands every year. Because they last longer, LEDs eliminate the recurring expense – not to mention the aggravation – of replacing lights every year. Plus, they use far less electricity – up to 80% less than incandescent bulbs, according to the Department of Energy.

Who hasn’t forgotten to turn off the holiday lights before going to bed? Connect holiday lights to timers that will automatically halt the power flow to decorations at a set time. Automating lights with timers not only ensures you’ll use less electricity, it’ll be one less thing for you to think about during the busy holiday season. Don’t forget to use power strips to protect decorations from possible power surges and to minimize vampire power drain.

Smarter heating and cooking

Everyone wants a home that is warm, cozy and welcoming during the holidays. Cooking is a big part of creating that atmosphere, and so is heating. By making some smart heating and cooking choices, it’s possible to conserve energy during the holidays.

Start by using a programmable thermostat, which automates temperature regulation more efficiently than you could achieve manually. The Department of Energy says that lowering your thermostat setting 10-15 degrees for eight hours a day could save you 5% to 15% off your heating bills. If you use a fireplace to supplement your heat, have it professionally serviced to ensure all parts – including the flue – are clean and in good working order. Reduce heat loss by ensuring all windows and doors are properly sealed, and attic insulation is adequate and in good shape.

To use less energy for cooking, skip preheating the oven for items that will be in the oven longer than an hour, such as meats. Whenever possible, use a microwave for cooking and reheating. According to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a microwave uses two-thirds less energy than a conventional oven. ACEEE also recommends that when cooking on an electric range you use pans that are the same size as the cooking element, choose pans with flat bottoms to maximize contact with the heating element, and opt for cookware made of materials that conduct heat well, such as copper-bottom pans.

Everything about the holiday season is bigger and brighter, from family gatherings to holiday decorations. Your energy bills, however, can stay trim and lean when you take a few simple steps to improve your home’s energy efficiency during the holidays.