Written by Susan Iovenitti
The holiday season is a busy time filled with many things to do and see, and it is a time of year when there are many opportunities to be more energy-efficient around the house. Here are our top 10 ideas for having a more energy-efficient household this year.
1. Cook with care. The holiday season is synonymous with cooking and baking in many households. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that approximately 15% of home energy use is in the kitchen. Simple steps like keeping the oven door closed, matching pot and burner sizes, cleaning stovetop burners and checking oven temperature can add up to savings on your energy bill.
2. Think twice about using your fireplace. When you think of the holidays, do you think of a cool night with a fireplace crackling in the background? Many people do. However, the home fireplace can be a source of significant home energy loss and higher energy bills. Make sure to keep fireplace damper and doors closed when your fireplace is not in use, and if you do plan to use your fireplace this holiday season, aim to have your chimney properly inspected by a certified chimney sweep to make sure that your fireplace and chimney are functioning efficiently. For more information about chimney and fireplace efficiency and safety, check out the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
3. Invite family and friends in, but keep the cold air drafts out. Before the holiday season begins, take a trip around your house and make sure that your windows are closed and latched. Often, especially with a double-hung window, the upper sash on the window can slide down allowing cold air to enter the home. Aim to keep exterior doors closed as much as possible too. Leaving exterior doors open with only a screen door separating the cold exterior air can cause much of the interior heat of the home to escape.
4. Turn down the thermostat… every degree counts! Turning down the thermostat this holiday season will help to save overall home energy use – and might actually make your home more comfortable with all of the cooking, baking and extra bodies associated with this time of year. Plan to turn down the thermostat anytime you leave your house. Turning your thermostat back uses less energy than maintaining a constant temperature in the home. If you have a programmable thermostat, you can program it to turn down when you leave your home and have the house nice and toasty when you come back. If you don’t have a programmable thermostat, leave a note by the door to remind you to turn down the thermostat before you leave and you’ll not only be helping the planet by using less energy in your home, but you’ll also be helping your wallet.
5. Use water wisely. While you’re turning down your thermostat, go ahead and turn down your hot water heater temperature as well. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends setting your hot water heater at 120 degrees F. Reducing water temperature not only prevents hot water burns, but it also saves overall home energy consumption. It is common misconception that turning up the temperature on your hot water heater will make hot water come to the tap faster. In actuality, hot water will come to the tap at the same speed, you will just be using additional energy to heat the water up to a higher temperature.
6. Let in the light. During the daylight hours, open the window shades and treatments to allow extra sunlight to enter and warm your home – especially on south-facing windows. But, remember to close those shades when the sun goes down to help retain interior heat and reduce energy loss through windows.
7. Clean your plate. While you’re clearing the dishes after holiday meals and events, make sure to scrape plates well and avoid an extra rinse before placing dishes in the dishwasher. Skipping the extra rinse will save you valuable energy and water and allow your dishwasher to do what it does best! If you don’t have a dishwasher, install low-flow aerators on your kitchen faucet to reduce water usage. Earn bonus points by running your dishwasher only when fully loaded and turning off the auto dry to allow wet dishes to air dry.
8. Decorate the energy-efficient way. If you plan on hanging holiday lights on the interior or exterior of your home, use energy-efficient ENERGY STAR LED lighting. LED lighting uses much less electricity than traditional incandescent bulbs and can be much safer, sturdier and easier to use. Also plan to put your lights on a timer to have it automatically set for lights to go on and off at the times that you specify. Doing this will not only help to lower energy consumption, but it will also make your holiday to-do list a little bit lighter!
9. Use your travel smarts. Over the river and through the woods this holiday season? Plan to use your travel smarts to save fuel consumption by taking gifts and other items out of your car in between trips. The lighter load will add up to some nice savings. Combine holiday errands into one larger trip instead of several smaller trips to use less fuel, and look for every opportunity to carpool with others to holiday gatherings and events.
10. Give efficiently. If you are planning on exchanging gifts this year, take the extra time to look for gifts with the ENERGY STAR rating, and if the gifts that you are giving require batteries, plan on buying a set of rechargeable batteries that can be re-used repeatedly. While you’re selecting gifts, look for opportunities to give digital gifts like eCards, that might not require shipping or the use of extra paper that require valuable energy. And, for the ultimate in energy efficient gifting, give someone in your life a home energy audit and they could have a 5-30% reduction in their home energy use all year round following energy-efficient home upgrades.
Susan Iovenitti is a User Experience Analyst for The Nature Conservancy.
[Image: LED Christmas lights. Photo credit: Andrew Gomzyakov/Flickr via a Creative Commons license]