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Energy-Saving Tips For Greener, Less Costly Holidays

WASHINGTON, DC, November 20, 2009 (ENS) – During the holiday season, energy saving tips from utilities and public agencies abound. ENS staffers have compiled a list of the best tips for saving energy and saving money while enjoying the holidays.

Decorating:

  • Consider replacing older strings of holiday lights with more energy efficient light emitting diodes, LEDs. Ask your lighting supplier for LED holiday bulbs, or look for them on the Internet. Now available in green, orange, gold, red, white and blue, they’re shatterproof, shock resistant and safe to touch. They present no fire hazard and save up to 80-90 percent of your decorative lighting energy costs.
  • LED holiday lights (Photo by Jelene Morris)

  • LEDs use 10 times less energy than incandescent mini-lights and 100 times less energy than standard bulbs, and they last up to 50,000 hours.
  • LEDs thrive in outdoor environments because of their durability and performance in cold weather. Look for Energy Star LED pathway lights, step lights, and porch lights for outdoor use.
  • If LEDs are not an option, consider buying new miniature lights, which use about 70 percent less energy and last longer than the larger bulbs.
  • If you prefer the brilliance of the larger lights, switch to 5-watt bulbs, which use about 30 percent less energy than 7-watt or 10-watt bulbs. Although the new bulbs will cost money initially, you will see energy savings immediately.
  • Using holiday lighting wisely can lower power consumption. Timers and photo cells can help reduce power usage by turning the lights on at dusk and turning them off at a desired time. Just make sure that the timer you use is rated to handle the total wattage of your lights.
  • Hot bulbs can ignite dry tree branches. To avoid disaster, keep indoor trees well watered and keep extension cords and light strings away from the water.

Food Storage:

  • Keep extra beverages and holiday leftovers cold by storing them in the garage or on the porch if outside temperatures permit. Unplugging that second refrigerator saves on the electricity bill.
  • Defrosting frozen food in the refrigerator helps keep the refrigerator cold. Keeping the refrigerator and freezer full is energy efficient, because the mass of cold items inside helps the refrigerator recover each time the door is opened.
  • Leaving the refrigerator door open while you take out the items you need is more efficient than opening and closing it several times.
  • Allow hot food to cool before storing in the refrigerator or freezer. But be sure to refrigerate or freeze hot foods within two hours of purchase or preparation, or within one hour if the air temperature is above 90 degrees.

Cooking:

  • Using the smallest appliance for the job while cooking during the holidays will always save energy. Microwave ovens use less than half the energy required by a conventional oven.
  • Holiday turkey (Photo by Eudaemonius)

  • To improve oven efficiency, keep the doors closed as much as possible and bake several dishes at the same time and temperature. Every time the door is opened, the oven loses 25 to 50 degrees.
  • Use the smallest pan and burner needed for the job. A six-inch pan on an eight-inch burner will waste more than 40 percent of the energy. Cook with lids on your pans. For example, cooking pasta without a lid on the pot can use three times as much energy.
  • If you use glass or ceramic pans, you can turn the oven temperature down 25 degrees, and foods will cook just as quickly.
  • Slow cookers and crock-pots will cook a whole meal for about 17 cents worth of electricity.
  • If the oven self-cleans, turn it on just after taking out the holiday feast, while the oven is still hot to take advantage of the residual heat.

Cleaning Up:

  • A load of dishes cleaned in a dishwasher requires 37 percent less water than washing dishes by hand. If you fill the wash and rinse basins instead of letting the hot water run, you’ll use half as much water as a dishwasher.
  • Run the dishwasher with full loads for optimum efficiency. To rinse the dishes before loading them, use only cold water so you’re not running up your energy bill by heating water unnecessarily.
  • Dishwashers that feature air power or overnight dry settings can save up to 10 percent of dishwashing energy costs.

Around the House:

  • Household appliances keep using electricity even if you are not there. If going on vacation during the holidays, unplug televisions, stereos, computers, VCRs, chargers, etc. since these all draw small amounts of electricity even when they are turned off. Unplug any refrigerator that does not contain perishable food.
  • Unplug cell phone, MP3 players, and PDA chargers when not in use. They use electricity, even when they aren’t charging.
  • Use the energy-saving setting for all appliances, particularly your refrigerator, air conditioner, washing machine, dryer, and dishwasher.
  • Consider replacing older incandescent light bulbs with Energy Star qualified compact fluorescent bulbs. They will save you about $30 or more in electricity costs over each bulb’s lifetime. Producing about 75 percent less heat, they are safer to operate and can cut home cooling costs.
  • Controls such as timers and photo cells save electricity by turning lights off when not in use. Dimmers save electricity when used to lower light levels. Be sure to select products that are compatible with CFL bulbs; not all products work with CFLs.
  • Compact fluorescents provide the greatest savings in fixtures that are on for a long time each day. CFLs are available in sizes and shapes to fit almost any light fixture. Visit www.energystar.gov to find the right bulbs for your fixtures.
  • The red and yellow colors in the image below show where heat is being lost from this home. (Photo courtesy DOE)

  • Consider converting the wood-burning fireplace to energy-efficient natural gas. Traditional masonry fireplaces are only 10 to 25 percent efficient and they draw heat from your home up the chimney. Natural gas burns cleaner and is up to 80 percent efficient without the hassle of wood, ashes and smoke.
  • If you use a wood-burning fireplace, close fireplace dampers to keep the heat in when the fireplace is not in use.
  • Weatherize your home. Use caulk or weather stripping to seal up any air leaks from window frames, baseboards, electrical outlet and switch plates, wall-mounted or window-mounted air conditioners, and other openings, such as pipes and wiring coming through ceilings, floors, and walls. You can cut heating and cooling costs by 15 to 30 percent and increase comfort at the same time.
  • Install storm windows and exterior doors. For older windows, use a plastic window kit to cut drafts and seal in heat.
  • Health permitting, set your thermostat to 70 degrees during the day and 60 degrees at night and when no one is home. Each degree over 70 can increase by three percent the amount of energy you use for heating.
  • If your windows are well-insulated, open the curtains on sunny days in the winter months and close them at night to keep the heat in.
  • Next to heating or cooling, water heating is typically the largest energy user in the home. To conserve energy, conserve hot water. Set your water heater no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit or about midway between the low and medium settings. Wrap your hot-water storage tank with an insulation blanket, even if it’s a newer model.

In the Home Office:

  • Turn off your monitor when you leave your computer for more than 20 minutes. There is a common misconception that screen savers reduce energy use by monitors; they don’t. Automatic switching to sleep mode or manually turning monitors off is a better energy-saving strategy.
  • Set your computer to hibernate when not in use for 30 minutes.
  • An Energy Star labeled computer uses 70 percent less electricity than computers without this designation. If left inactive, Energy Star labeled desktop computers enter sleep mode and use four watts or less, saving energy and helping the equipment run cooler and last longer.
  • To maximize savings with a laptop, put the AC adapter on a power strip that can be turned off or will turn off automatically. The transformer in the AC adapter draws power continuously, even when the laptop is not plugged into the adapter.

On the Road

  • Get a customized map with low gas prices along the route or find out where the cheapest gas is in your neighborhood. MapQuest: Gas Prices at: http://gasprices.mapquest.com/index.jsp offers maps of gas locations with current prices.
  • Decrease your speed. Gas mileage usually decreases rapidly above 60 miles per hour. Each five miles per hour over 60 mph is like paying an additional 20 cents or even more per gallon for gas.
  • Keeping your tires properly inflated improves gas mileage by around three percent.

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