For Immediate Release: December 19, 2011
Media Contact: Susanne Garfield - 916-654-4989


Frugal and Festive: Holiday Energy Tips That Can Save Money All Year Long

SACRAMENTO - The holiday season is a time for gift giving, sharing and celebration. Unfortunately, it can also be a time of high electricity costs and expensive heating bills. But by being aware of a few simple energy tips from the California Energy Commission, you can keep your energy costs under control not only during this festive season but throughout the year.

When giving gifts like appliances or electronic equipment, keep in mind there can be two costs - the upfront cost of the gift and the energy costs needed to operate it. When possible, look for the most energy efficient appliance, one carrying the Energy Star® label. Energy Star® products can use 40 percent less energy than other models and will provide energy savings for as long as you use them.

Lighting, heating, and cooking - three of a home's biggest expenses - provide other areas where it is simple to save energy. Here are some energy saving suggestions to consider during the holidays:

Energy-pinching lighting

  • You'll save all year long by replacing old incandescent lights with compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) or even the new light-emitting diode (LED) lightbulbs now in stores. Both types of bulbs last longer and use much less electricity than the standard incandescent. A CFL bulb will save you about $50 in energy costs over the life of the bulb.
  • If you're decorating the house or tree for the holidays, consider using LED lights. A bit more expensive to begin with, they can save you hundreds of dollars in energy costs over their long lifetime.

Turn down the thermostat, turn up the savings

  • Try wearing that new sweater you received at Christmas, and turn down your thermostat to 68 degrees. For every degree you lower your heat in the 60-degree to 70-degree range, you'll save up to five percent on heating costs. Set the thermostat back to 55 degrees or turn it off altogether at night or when leaving home for an extended time. Doing so can save 5 percent to 20 percent of your heating costs (Heat pumps should only be set back two degrees to prevent backup strip heating from kicking in and wasting energy).
  • Start the holiday season with a new furnace filter and clean or replace it monthly to keep your furnace running efficiently.
  • Setting your water heater to 120 degrees can cut your water heating costs by 10 percent.

Cooking tips

Whether you're cooking holiday dinners for relatives or baking cookies for an office potluck, keep these tips in mind to minimize your electricity usage in the kitchen:

  • You can save energy by using the smallest appliance for the job. A microwave oven uses less than half the energy required by a regular oven. Use your slow cooker or crock pot if you can. For about 20 cents worth of electricity, you can cook an entire meal.
  • For stovetop cooking, use the smallest pan needed for the job and match it with the proper sized burner. More heat will get to the pan and less will be lost to the surrounding air. Believe it or not, a six-inch pan on an eight-inch burner will waste over 40 percent of the energy!
  • Clean burners and reflectors provide better heating, while saving energy. If you need new reflectors, buy quality ones. The best on the market can save as much as one-third of the energy used when cooking on top of the stove.
  • Cook with lids on your pans. For example, cooking pasta without a lid on the pot can use three times as much energy than if the pot is covered.
  • When using your oven, check cooking progress by looking through the window. Opening the oven door for even a few seconds lowers the temperature inside by as much as 25 degrees, which increases cooking time and wastes energy. When possible, bake several dishes at the same time using the same temperature.
  • Turn off your oven several minutes before your food is fully cooked. As long as the door is closed, enough heat will be stored inside to finish cooking your meal. The same principle applies to your electric range-top - the metal heating elements stay hot even after the electricity is turned off.
  • Glass and ceramic pans hold heat better and longer and you can turn the oven temperature down by 25 degrees.

Refrigerator tips

In addition to your stove, your refrigerator and freezer also get a real workout over the holidays. While newer refrigerators are much more energy efficient than older ones, they remain one of the largest energy consumers in your house, often accounting for as much as 15 percent of your home's total energy usage.

  • Help your refrigerator and freezer operate efficiently and economically by keeping the doors closed as much as possible so the cold air doesn't escape. However, leaving the door open for a longer period of time while you take out the items you need is more efficient than opening and closing it several times.
  • It's easy to keep your refrigerator and freezer full during the holidays. It's also energy efficient, because the mass of cold items inside will help your refrigerator recover each time the door is opened. Don't cram it too full, because cool air must be able to circulate properly around your food.

Dishwasher tips

  • One simple, fun, and cost-effective way to save energy at holiday time is to gather everyone together in the kitchen and wash and dry your dishes by hand. But don't keep a steady stream of hot water flowing, or you'll waste more energy than you save.
  • According to research, a load of dishes cleaned in a dishwasher requires 37 percent less water than washing dishes by hand. However, if you fill the wash and rinse basins instead of letting the water run, you'll use half as much water as a dishwasher. If you opt to use the dishwasher, wash full loads only. If you must rinse your dishes before loading them, use only cold water so you're not running up your energy bill by heating water unnecessarily. Don't forget to use the energy-saving cycles whenever possible. Dishwashers that feature air power or overnight dry settings can save up to 10 percent of your dishwashing energy costs.

Saving energy is a habit you should practice all year long - but the holidays can be the perfect time to start. Throughout the holiday season and into the new year, you'll watch your energy bills drop even as you use less of our precious energy resources - just one more thing to be thankful for this holiday season.

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency. Created by the Legislature in 1974 and located in Sacramento, six basic responsibilities guide the Energy Commission as it sets state energy policy: forecasting future energy needs; licensing thermal power plants 50 megawatts or larger; promoting energy efficiency and conservation by setting the state's appliance and building efficiency standards; supporting public interest energy research that advances energy science and technology through research, development, and demonstration programs; developing renewable energy resources and alternative renewable energy technologies for buildings, industry and transportation; planning for and directing state response to energy emergencies.

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