09:12 AM

Prepare for Happy Holiday Guests

With Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah approaching, it’s a good time to start preparing for holiday guests with hospitality — and energy efficiency — in mind.

It’s usually after the holidays, when the January energy bill arrives, when homeowners realize they’ve consumed extra energy in late November and December. While the higher energy bill can be attributed mostly to colder weather, it’s a good bet that a portion of the increase is due to the holidays.

In many households, the holidays serve as multipliers of energy consumption. It’s a time when there is typically more of almost everything, whether that’s family and friends at the table, extravagant meals on the table, or overnight guests necessitating more laundry, more hot showers and more dishes to wash.

It’s a delightful time meant to be enjoyed, but that joy can fade in January, if your energy bill is higher. Take care now to keep that from happening by following a few tips for keeping energy use under control when entertaining for the holidays.

With Company in Mind: The biggest draw on your winter energy bill comes from heating your home. While 68 degrees (the recommended thermostat setting for winter) may be comfortable for your immediate family, it could become downright toasty with a houseful of guests. After a morning of holiday cooking, the kitchen and adjoining rooms exude extra heat; add a dozen houseguests to the mix and the body heat could make your winter holiday feel like a sauna. Do your January energy bill a favor: Turn the thermostat down a few notches before guests arrive.

With grandchildren and/or grandparents in the house, you may be doing extra laundry. Since water heaters account for about 18 percent of electricity consumed, you’ll save on the energy bill by keeping the water heater temperature at 120 degrees or lower and using cold water for laundry.

Treat your guests to air purifiers in their rooms to help minimize potential allergic reactions and the spread of colds and flu. Use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters for maximum air purification.

Ensure guests are safe from fires by keeping a fire extinguisher on each level of your home, and make sure batteries are up-to-date in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.

For the youngest holiday guests, child-proof your home by applying electric plug protectors, cabinet latches and door knob covers.

Holiday Lights: When it comes to decorating for the holidays, it’s possible to be festive and frugal at the same time. Be smart about how many lights you put up. Consider using fewer strands of lights, both inside and outside, and a timer to turn off lights and other decorations during the daytime or when you’re not home.

Update your holiday lights by using light-emitting diode (LED) lights, which are 80 to 90 percent more energy efficient than traditional incandescent holiday lights.

Mealtime: Plan meals so multiple dishes can be cooked in the oven at the same time. Don’t bother with preheating the oven when you’re about to cook a turkey or ham for several hours.

Use the slow cooker, microwave and other smaller appliances when possible since they use less energy.

Jackie Kennedy has worked with Georgia’s electric cooperatives for 23 years, producing newsletters, press releases and articles about the industry or energy-related matters. She is the author of People, Power, Progress: The Story of Jackson EMC, published in 2013. In her blog, she grapples with a variety of energy efficiency topics.