Use these 8 energy-efficient strategies to ensure your household runs smoothly and cost-effectively from Thanksgiving into the New Year.
Employ a programmable thermometer to automatically switch warmer daytime settings to cooler settings come bedtime. Wisconsin Public Service, a Midwestern energy supplier, advises setting your thermostat between 66°F and 68°F--an acceptable temp for most people. But, when crowds (who emit room-warming body heat) gather, turn thermostats down by 3 to 5 degrees to create more comfortable environments for guests. For each degree you lower your thermostat, you can reduce your energy use by 1 to 3 percent.
Heating and cooling costs account for 45 percent of the average home's energy tab, so it's important that your home is well-insulated--especially during high-traffic holidays. Seal gaps and cracks around windows and doors. Have your furnace tuned up and your fireplace cleaned to ensure the heating sources heat efficiently. Hot air rises so switch ceiling fans to reverse so the blades push hot air down where it's needed.
Functioning bathrooms and kitchens are necessary to staging successful seasonal celebrations. Avoid breakdowns and backups during your household's busiest times by checking that toilets, faucets, showerheads, garbage disposals, and dishwashers are operational. Clean faucet and showerhead filters; repair drippy faucets; and inspect toilet tank valve systems to make sure they are flushing properly. Use a disinfecting cleaner designed for your dishwasher to remove odors, food residue, and mineral build-ups and improve water circulation.
Kitchen appliances should be in tip-top shape so they can effectively handle everything from chilling chardonnays to baking Christmas cookies. Clean refrigerator condensers, wipe down microwave interiors, and clear freezers and refrigerator of expired or unwanted foodstuffs to make way for holiday provisions. If an appliance isn't working well, call in an appliance repair person to get it in good running order before festivities begin.
Energy Saver, the U.S. Department of Energy's consumer resource, says you'll save a bundle by replacing incandescent lights with ENERGY STAR® qualified LED light strands. In addition to using 70% less energy than traditional bulbs, the eco-friendly bulbs last ten times longer and are brighter, safer, and cooler than incandescent lights. Also, you can connect up to 24 strings of LEDs end-to-end without overloading a wall socket.
Set out extra flashlights and battery-powered lighting in case the power goes out, and stock up on power strips and extension cords to accommodate guests' personal electronics, holiday decorations, and food-heating devices.
Instead of opening the oven door to check on what's cooking, turn on the oven light and look through the window. Each time you open the oven door, you'll lower the oven temperature as much as 25 degrees. Match the size of your pot to the size of your heating element to conserve energy; place a 6-inch pot on an 8-inch burner and you'll waste 40 percent of the heating energy, say the folks at California's Consumer Energy Center. Use slow cookers, microwaves, and outdoor grills, which require less energy to run than major appliances.
Save time and energy by serving readymade foods, such as fancy cheeses, frozen appetizers, and deli-made spreads. Place all wrapping paper and trims in the area you will be wrapping gifts. Buy extra ornament hooks, nylon line, narrow ribbon, florist's wire, twist ties, and spare holiday light bulbs so you're ready to go when it's time to adorn the halls and bedeck the tree.