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Energy-Conserving Tips to Save You Money This Holiday Season

From LED Christmas lights to free energy audits, easy ways to reduce energy waste.

Replacing your incandescent Christmas lights with LEDs can save you a bundle. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Being green this holiday season doesn’t just mean finding the perfect tree for the
living room or composting the fruitcake that’s still hanging around since last year.
The cold weather means it’s time to batten down the hatches (literally and figuratively)
to save big on heating costs. Last year Pepco customers in DC and Maryland that only
had electric heating used just over 600 kilowatt hours more of electricity to stay
warm in January than cool in July. We spoke with
Ronnie Kweller, a spokesperson for the DC-based Alliance to Save Energy, about
ways to stay warm while spending less when the weather outside is frightful.

Bundle Up

“The most important thing is just making sure your
home is nicely sealed and air tight,”
says Kweller. Older homes may be under-insulated, and all those
tiny leaks can add
up to the equivalent of a three-square-foot hole in your wall.
Sealing and properly
insulating your home can save you up to 20 percent on your
energy bill, she explains.
Seal the area around windows and doors with weather stripping
and caulk, and close
up electrical outlets on exterior walls with foam gaskets.

Audit Your Energy

District residents can get a free energy audit and
there are several companies in the region that offer them for a fee. “They will give
you a written report identifying areas where you’re wasting energy, what you need
to do to fix them, and exactly how much it will cost,” says Kweller. Or you can perform
your own audit by lighting a stick of incense and taking a tour of your windows and
doors. If the smoke blows inward, you know you have a leak.

Programmable Savings

It’s nice coming home to a warm and cozy house after a long day, but heating an empty
home just for this creature comfort is a waste of hot air. Programmable thermostats
will keep your home cool when you’re gone and warm when you’re not, saving you up
to 10 percent on your heating cost, says Kweller. These thermostats will also save
you money in summer.

Holiday Helpers

They may be more expensive, but replacing your old incandescent Christmas lights with
modern LEDs can equal big savings. A string of 140 LEDs uses about the same amount
of power as just one of the old seven-watt bulbs, says Kweller. “That is quite a huge
savings.” LEDs also last longer, break less, and reduce your risk of fire.

Guiding Star

When shopping this holiday season, look for Energy Star labels. “Their testing and
reporting has improved, and we feel that it is a great thing for consumers,” says
Kweller. Depending on what you are replacing, a new Energy Star-approved product can
use up to 30 percent less energy than your old one, she says. And the label is not
just for appliances. Everything from gifts such as Blu-ray players to home improvement
items like new windows can be Energy Star certified.

Odds and Ends

Doing a lot of small things can add up to big savings.

  • Keep curtains and blinds open on the sunny side of your house during the day to
    naturally heat your home. Just make sure to close them again at night.
  • Check your furnace filters once a month. They are often reusable and cheap to replace.
  • Remove chargers from the wall when not in use, because they continue to draw power
    even if nothing is plugged in.