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How to save on electricity this holiday season

Image of Nicholas Belanger
BC Hydro Outreach rep Nicholas Belanger loves entertaining friends during the holiday season. And while this snowman may not add any heat to a home, having a lot of guests around just might give you the chance to turn down the thermostat a few degrees.

Don't let rising energy costs become a holiday tradition in your home

Posted by Nicholas Belanger

The holiday season is here, or at least it feels like it. And with it come shorter days and colder temperatures, which tend to add up to more electricity use.

When you factor in the additional electricity usage that comes with entertaining family and friends, it can be challenging to rein in our electricity consumption. But a few tweaks in the way we use electricity can help us enjoy the season while keeping our electricity bills manageable.

Power Smart in the kitchen

Food is a central part of the holidays in my family, and for many others. If you're cooking a large meal with many dishes that require using the oven, be sure to use both oven racks and cook as many dishes as possible at the same time.

Keep in mind that it takes the same amount of energy to heat a full oven as it does to preheat a nearly empty one. When using the stove top, match your pan to your element. A six-inch pan on an eight-inch burner will waste more than 40 per cent of the stove's energy.

Here's another good rule of thumb: use the smallest appliance to get the job done. Lots of delicious dishes, such as traditional stuffing, can be made in the crockpot, for example. And when it comes time to reheating leftovers, remember that your microwave is about 50 per cent more efficient than your oven.

Not all holiday lighting is created equal

Another way my family gets into the holiday spirit is by decorating. Upgrading your holiday lighting can save you money.

ENERGY STAR® seasonal LEDs, for example, use 50 per cent less energy and last up to 10 times longer than older incandescent holiday lights. ENERGY STAR-certified decorative light strings come with a three-year warranty, and are cool to the touch, reducing the risk of fire.

In addition to using more efficient lighting, you can achieve even more savings by setting your decorative outdoor lighting on a timer. When it comes to indoor lighting, try dimming (or shutting off) your home lighting when your decorative lighting is in use.

Learn about the latest in LED holiday lighting

Got company? Tips for saving energy when guests arrive

Entertaining family and friends is another cherished part of the holidays for me, but having a lot of guests over can quickly lead to increased energy consumption.

Then again, having more people in your home can work to your advantage in other ways. For example, try turning your thermostat down a few degrees when hosting a large get-together; the extra body heat will keep your home warm.

If you're hosting overnight guests, reach for extra blankets before wheeling out your portable space heater. When used consistently overnight, a space heater could cost over $30 per month to operate. If you do choose to use a space heater to warm a guest room, be sure to use it efficiently by circulating the heat with a ceiling fan and by keeping the door closed to minimize heat loss.

On the other hand, if you and your family are leaving home for the holidays, remember to lower your thermostat to 16°C to reduce your heating costs while minimizing risk of moisture build-up in your home. If you're concerned about home security while you're away, consider using a lighting timer with some of your efficient indoor and outdoor lights to make it appear that you're home.

Nicholas Belanger is a Community Outreach representative with BC Hydro who educates customers in B.C.'s southern interior about ways to save energy and money.