The Ultimate Guide to Saving Energy During Christmas

undefinedAccording to University of University of Minnesota economist Joel Waldfogel, Americans spend about $65 billion a year on Christmastime gifts. Add to that the increased cost of wintertime home heating, and you’ll see that December is a month of major spending. Your credit card bills might be big this January, but you don’t need to have the additional shock of huge utility bills. You won’t have that sticker shock if you follow these tips:

1. Unplug holiday light displays during the day: Contrary to rumor, turning lights on and off does not use more electricity than leaving them burning. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it is more energy-efficient to switch any kind of light bulb off than to leave it on, regardless of whether you use incandescent, fluorescent, or LED light bulbs.  Since your holiday light display will have little visual impact during daylight hours, it pays to turn it off during the day. The cost of turning it back on at night is far less than the cost of leaving it on all day.

2. Set holiday light displays on automatic timers: The morning rush can be fierce. With lunches to make, buses and trains to catch, and errands to run before work, it’s hard to remember to turn off the Christmas lights. Setting the light display on an automatic timer solves that problem. I often use mechanical timers for my lights. They are inexpensive and easy to use. Just plug the string of lights into the timer, plug the timer into the outlet, and set the time that you want the lights to go on, and go off.

3. Reduce the size of outdoor lighting displays: Setting up an elaborate light display, bigger and more sparkly than last year, is fun. For many, outdoing the previous year’s show is a good-natured neighborhood rivalry that they look forward to. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but more lights = more electricity used. That's obvious. It's really a question of evaluating one’s financial priorities. If the tradition of a huge display is so important to you that you’ve figured the cost of electricity to run it into your holiday budget, cool. If not, save fossil fuel and cash by reducing the amount of your holiday lights. Have an inflatable Santa with a blower that runs on electricity full time? Maybe omit that feature and stick to lights only. If you're powering 25 strings of bulbs, can you reduce it to 10? With some creative design, your light display can be merry and bright, yet cost you less in electricity.

4. Use LED lights for holiday light displays instead of incandescent lights: There are so many reasons to switch to LED lights, and they are not all related to saving electricity. Do we even have to talk about this anymore? Just switch to LED X-mas lights, and call it a night.

5. Plan shopping trips to reduce gasoline use: All those last minute purchases can drive a person nuts! Advanced planning can help you to save money on gasoline, and it can make the days leading up to Christmas more peaceful and easy for you.

6. Haul less weight in your trunk: So you went shopping, but don’t want to lug all that loot inside the house. The perfect solution is to leave that junk in the trunk, right? Wrong. Extra weight in the trunk of the car means that your vehicle is pulling more weight around, and pulling more weight around means burning more gasoline. Busted! Burn some calories by carrying those presents into the house, even if you’re planning to put them back in the trunk when you eventually drive them to the lucky recipients’ houses. Earn your eggnog, my friend. Earn it.

7. Use an automatic garage door closer: According to electrical expert Martin Halliday of Green Building Advisor, it’s not the R-value of the garage door that matters for energy efficiency, but rather how airtight the door is. New houses tend to have better-insulated side walls than old ones. If you live in an older home, likely you are losing heat through the side wall that is attached to your house’s garage. If the garage door is not well sealed – or if it's open – all the heat that the structure of the garage could possibly retain escapes. It pays to keep the garage door closed. Yet, we all know that it’s easy to forget during the hubbub of the holidays. An automatic garage door opener can help you to keep the garage door closed while you pay attention to more pressing matters.

8. Install a motion-sensor light in your kitchen pantry: At holiday parties, it’s all about the food. When you’re cooking up a storm, and fetching ingredients for multiple courses, it’s easy to forget to turn off the light in the pantry. A motion-sensor light will solve that problem. Lifehacker published some dynamite directions for making your own pantry light motion sensor.

9. Run your dishwasher more efficiently: A report on the efficiency of dishwashers versus hand washing says, “It's also worth noting that not all dishwasher owners use their machines in the most efficient manner possible. To really green up your automatic dishwashing, you should always use the air-drying function, avoid the profligate "rinse hold" setting, wash only full loads, and install the machine far away from your refrigerator. (The dishwasher's heat will force your fridge to work harder and thus negate your supposed energy savings.)”

10. Cook as efficiently as possible: If you are cooking on an electric oven, the Environmental Protection Agency suggests you reduce your use of energy by doing some of your cooking in a crock pot, which takes less electricity than an electric oven. You can also reduce fuel consumption by baking as much food as possible together. If you are preparing in advance, bake dishes that require approximately  the same temperature together. For example, instead of heating the oven to 400 degrees four times for four different dishes, try to cook all of them in the same round.

11. Opt for a fiber optic tree: Fiber optic Christmas trees are synthetic, pre-lit trees that can be stored and reused year after year. Instead of a living tree which is cut down, displayed for a short time, and then discarded it, a fiber optic tree is virtually waste-free. Since the tree is lit by LED bulbs embedded in its limbs, there is no need to purchase or plug in additional lights for it.

12. Wear slippers: There is nothing like cozy holiday slippers to keep your feet warm. Heat rises, and cold air settles by the floor. Your whole body will feel warmer if your feet are warm. You’ll be able to turn your heat down a few degrees by wearing a hat (to retain the body heat that you lose through your head) and slippers (to protect your feet from the cold air near the floor).

Chaya Kurtz writes for 

Updated November 29, 2018.

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