As I walk or drive down my street, I'm noticing lots of holiday light displays, as well as people who already have their Christmas tree decorated and lit in the front window. I'm planning on being out of town this holiday season, at least for a few days, so I'm foregoing a big holiday light display, both inside and outside of my house. Of course, even as I admire some of the more restrained and classy light shows, I wonder how much extra the display is adding to my neighbors' energy bills.
I'm currently waiting for my own energy bill, hoping that it will be manageable. My gas bill was a bit higher than I expected (I raised the thermostat to 62 from 58; I also had a housesitter who I'm sure used the heater generously while I was away last month). Now I'm hoping that I can make up the difference with a lower electricity bill. Here are some ways to make that happen, in spite of the temptation to follow my neighbors' example and join in the decorating cheer.
- Unplug anything that can be unplugged (with the exception of the refrigerator, of course) when away on vacation. This includes, the TV, the DVD player, computers, and the microwave, among other appliances.
- Use the oven strategically. I baked rolls for a Thanksgiving dinner I attended, while at the same time baking a last batch of cookies. Doubling up on items that cook at the same temperature will save energy, regardless of whether your oven is gas or electric.
- Along the same lines, use lids on your saucepans, to conserve heat where you want it: inside the saucepan. Saving time on heating water or soup also saves energy.
- Have a holiday gathering at your own home: the more bodies in your living room, the lower the thermostat needs to be. Bonus is that you'll save on the gas that it would have taken to drive to someone else's house!
- Utilize candles as part of your holiday decorations, rather than electric lights. When used safely, candles can add a beautiful glow to the mantle or table that an electric light simply can't.
- Speaking of lights, purchase the new LED Christmas lights, which supposedly use 90% less energy!
- Finally, wait until night has fallen to turn on your decorative lights, and turn them off at a reasonable hour. I have a coworker who says her neighbors keep their 'mobile', electric snowman on all night long. Why waste the energy?