Save Energy This Holiday Season
After buying the kids the perfect gifts, setting up all the decorations and agreeing to host this Christmas dinner and the New Years party, you don’t need another excuse to do any more holiday spending. And you certainly don’t want to waste any more time than necessary away from your family at this time of year. Since it’s the season of giving, we’re here to give you a few ideas on how you can cut some costs (and some corners) for this year’s festivities.
The Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) estimates that 1.5 million families across the province will decorate their homes with outdoor lights this holiday season. As a result, December often sees a spike of 83 megawatts. We crunched the numbers and that means that the spike in electricity use from our Christmas lights account for nearly a tenth of our typical monthly energy consumption. Those little lights add up to big costs. That’s why this Christmas you should maybe think about…
1. Buying LED holiday string lights
At high noon, while the sun is out, no one driving by can see those sparkly icicle lights you have hanging off your eaves anyway. And your inflatable Santa doesn’t need his red suit any brighter to capture the neighbourhood’s attention. You can just turn those lights off while the sun is out to save energy and lower the electric bill during the holidays. There are also plenty of options for energy-efficient Christmas lights, like replacing your old incandescent ones with LEDs, or buying timed Christmas lights that shut off automatically.
2. Limiting your Christmas light use
If you think that you’ve already sunk money into the lights you have right now, consider buying a smart plug for the outlet instead. That way, you can use voice control, smartphone apps or a built-in timer to turn the lights off for you at whatever time is convenient.
3. Pay attention to electricity peak hours this holiday
It’s also beneficial to know when electricity peak hours are in your city so you can avoid turning on lights at those times, as higher demand means higher prices. During the holidays, we tend to spend more on energy bills from all the cooking, cleaning, heating and, of course, lighting. That’s why using electricity and natural gas more strategically way this holiday season can be really money saving.
4. Using less regular lighting during the holidays
While we’re still talking about lights, remember to turn off your regular lights if your holiday lights are enough. Or even invest in smart bulbs that can let you set the intensity and colour of your lights, while using less energy. This can even set the mood for those nights where you just want to curl up in a blanket with a glass of eggnog. Plus you’re being eco-friendly by using less energy during the holidays too, so you can consider that your Christmas gift to the world.
5. Maybe downsize all those lawn decorations
Look, we get it. Inflatable Santa just didn’t look right without all twelve of the light-up reindeer in the yard too. And how would the neighbours know how serious you are about the holidays if you didn’t light up your house with miles of Christmas lights?
While transforming your existing decorations with energy-saving Christmas lights can do wonders for your utility bill, it can only do so much for a house that’s trying to have all the decorations in the world up at once. Try alternating which decorations get used in a given year.
That way every Christmas your yard decor looks brand new because people didn’t see it last year. Plus, it also makes for a cohesive aesthetic to put out items that seem to go together. We all know that neighbour who somehow has a lawn of different white lights and different coloured lights, some of them blinking to their own beat. They could be saving energy on holiday lights by alternating between which colours would go together each year. So, maybe this year Santa and the reindeer can stay, but next year is Frosty’s turn to come out of the storage.
6. Use your dishwasher for larger loads
What better gift to give yourself this year than the gift of relaxation. You hosted the dinner, why should you be expected to clean up afterwards while everyone else is carolling the night away? Besides, for larger loads, the dishwasher can actually save you more time and money than manual washing. Think about it; running the tap repeatedly to rinse off each piece of flatware and plate, not to mention filling up the sink to soak all that extra-soiled crock ware adds up over time.
7. But use it more efficiently
You can take this a step further by turning the dishwasher off and leaving the door open to air dry instead of the automatic dry. Better yet, see if your dishwasher has an ‘air dry’ setting so you don’t have to leave the door open — it can cut up to half of your dishwasher’s energy consumption. So, on those rare occasions where one meal can make a load big enough to justify using your dishwasher, pass off the work and enjoy the rest of your Christmas.
8. Dress for the cold, even inside
Baby, it’s cold outside but that doesn’t mean that you have to be miserable indoors. It is unnecessary (and dangerous) to turn off the furnace all winter to save money. However, there are ways to save energy at Christmas time by optimizing how you use your thermostat. While it’s still ugly sweater season, feel free to bust out that homemade knitwear you buried in the back of the drawer and pile your bed in as many fuzzy blankets as it can handle. This allows you to set the ambient temperature of your home a bit lower throughout the month so you consume less heat and save more money.
9. Don’t touch that thermostat
While you’re at it, turn down the thermostat while your sleeping or out of the house, too. At nighttime, your body temperature lowers to begin the sleep cycle, so you can adjust your thermostat between 15 and 20°C. If you’re not the type to remember to do all that, you could just invest in a smart thermostat that will automatically set the temperature at nights and while you’re away. You can even adjust the thermostat with apps or voice control features if you find it’s still not optimal but don’t want to get up.
10. Weather-proof your fireplace this Christmas
You can also invite the whole family to snuggle around the fireplace (or any other room with a space heater) as an excuse to turn down the temperature everywhere else. This lets you make more special moments from using less electricity or gas. Just be sure that when you’re done with your fireplace, you weather-proof your chimney by blocking it. You can use chimney balloons, caps or dampers to seal away the cold air outside and properly insulate the home. That way, when your furnace does come on later, it won’t have to work overtime to heat the house.
11. Prepare the Christmas dinner in new ways
Don’t just update your recipe, there are better ways of preparing a big feast, such as a holiday dinner, that can save time, energy and patience. Have multiple households sharing the meal? Then have a potluck. In lieu of working the day away over the stove to make sure dinner is perfect, get the relatives to chip in a meal item. Plus your grocery bill will thank you for buying a single premade salad and passing it off as your own.
12. Cook more efficiently
But if you still see yourself cooking many different meal items, prep your meal items so that items that bake at the same temperature can be cooked simultaneously, cutting down the time that your oven has to be on. It’s also more efficient to cook in a crockpot than on the stove, meaning that you can let the gravy simmer away, while you tend to other matters.
13. Give the gift of savings this holiday
Whether it’s for yourself or for someone else, who wouldn’t want to save money this Christmas? Consider buying more efficient versions of gifts you were planning to give anyways. You can substitute a tablet for a laptop. It has all the power and functionality of a laptop, but more compact and less energy-consuming. Or, put an Energy Star-certified TV in the living room for everyone to enjoy. You can even gift yourself smart home devices that will do the upkeep of your energy use for you.
14. Motion sensors and other smart home devices
Motion sensors will automatically shut off lights once a set time has passed without movement, so never again will you return home to find that you left a light on. There are so many ways to upgrade your home to be more energy-efficient, including smart home devices.
Imagine easily turning off the lights through the phone or setting the thermostat from the other side of the world. Plenty of smart home devices focus not only on affordability and practicality but also on energy-efficient features, which enable you to control more processes at home and avoid higher energy costs.
15. Compare your current energy plan
And there you have it. A stocking full of energy-saving tips for the holidays, from me to you. But as an extra treat, here’s one more: you can use our tool above to help you compare your electricity or natural gas options or go to EnergyRates.ca to make sure you’re getting the cheapest possible energy rates for your home, business, manufacturing plant or any other large commercial operations.