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Illinois Country Living

Have a Happy [Energy Efficient] Holiday Season

By Brian Sloboda

Top 10 Energy Saving Tips for a Happy Holiday Season

10. Ask for Energy Star rated appliances and CFLs

9. Skip the electronics and get the kids board games

8. Don’t preheat the oven when cooking large pieces of meat

7. Lower thermostats and replace HVAC filters every 30 days

6. Check windows and doors for leaks and seal them

5. Install timers on outdoor lighting displays

4. Decorate with LED lights

3. Adjust power settings on video game consoles to

the power saving feature

2. Vanquish energy vampires with a smart power strip

1. Follow Scrooge’s example: skip the holidays!

(Not recommended for children)


The holidays are a time for family, friends and celebrations. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas may be times of happiness and joy, but they are often followed by large utility bills. Don’t let an expensive January electric bill be the last gift of the season — with a few simple energy efficient tricks you can still celebrate and save money, too.

The Brightest House on the Block

Energy efficient lighting is a good place to start. Everyone knows the house with the large light display: it’s the one you take the kids to, the one you talk to neighbors about, and the one producing enough light to draw small airplanes attempting to land. It’s also the house with the very large January electric bill.

Energy-saving light emitting diode (LED) lights could curb that bill. Whereas a string of traditional mini lights uses 36 watts of power, a string of LED lights only uses 5 watts and lasts up to 10 times longer. The lights are typically made of plastic and will not break, and many are brighter than traditional mini lights.

The drawbacks? A string of LED lights can cost two to three times more than traditional string lights, and many homeowners have reported mixed results with LED holiday lights. Unlike traditional incandescent lights, LEDs use computer chips to create the light. Depending on the quality of the manufacturing process, the brightness and life may not be what’s expected.

A good rule of thumb: cheaper is not always better. Cheap LED lamps may appear dim compared to more expensive LEDs or traditional lighting. When looking for LEDs it’s a good idea to view the lights plugged in at the store, or make sure you can return the lights if they don’t meet your expectations.

All holiday lights, whether LED or incandescent, should be placed on a timer. Simple timers cost around $20 and can be set to turn on at sunset and off after a set number of hours.

The Gift of Energy Efficiency

The holiday season generally conjures up images of elves, a jolly toy maker from the North Pole, and mounds of beautifully wrapped packages. But many don’t realize that among those gifts could lurk a vampire — an energy vampire. Many electronic gifts are, in fact, “energy vampires,” which use electricity 24 hours a day.

Cell phone chargers, computers, video game consoles, and any electronic device that comes with a large square plug are energy vampires, using electricity even when supposedly switched off. On average, home entertainment products such as TVs, stereos and video game consoles account for 7 percent of a home’s annual electric bill. Computers and their related equipment account for another 5 percent of the yearly electric bill. These devices are typically always on and always consuming electricity.

Don’t let these vampires ruin your holiday and drive up your energy bill year-round. When possible, unplug devices that are not being used, or plug them into a smart power strip that is designed to control the flow of electricity to specific devices plugged into it. For example, it may cut the flow of electricity to unused devices such as DVD players, video game consoles and stereo systems, while allowing TVs and satellite or cable boxes to remain plugged in and operational. To keep the whole entertainment center running lean, look for Energy Star-rated televisions and ask satellite or cable providers for energy efficient boxes.

Spreading Holiday Cheer

With the house decorated and the presents wrapped, it’s time for the party to begin. Most holiday celebrations involve family and friends visiting. To stay energy efficient through it all, turn down the thermostat before guests arrive. Although it may be cold outside, once a home fills with people the temperature will quickly begin to rise. Cooking will also add warmth to a home. Depending on the size of the home and the number of guests, many find it completely unnecessary to heat the home during holiday parties.

When cooking for the masses, the first direction of most recipes (“preheat oven to…”) can be ignored: large pieces of meat such as ham, turkey or a roast don’t require a preheated oven. Any food that requires several hours of cooking can go into a cold oven, saving energy in the process. The exceptions to this rule are baked goods.

Being energy efficient is not at the top of most people’s minds when celebrating a holiday. But what was a very happy holiday can turn sour with the arrival of January bills. Prevent the post-holiday shock by thinking creatively and shopping carefully. The money saved can be used for the other dreaded January bill: the credit card.

Brian Sloboda is a program manger specializing in energy efficiency for the Cooperative Research Network, a service of the Arlington, Va.-based National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

The Cooperative Research Network monitors, evaluates, and applies technologies that help electric cooperatives control costs, increase productivity, and enhance service to their consumers.



© 2016 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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