Consumers are reeling from this year's high -- and sometimes record -- home heating costs. So the last thing they need is the double whammy of high energy bills when the holiday bills arrive in January. Energy-efficiency tips from the Alliance to Save Energy can help winter home energy costs, and perhaps even provide some gift ideas!
- Be on the cutting edge with light-emitting diode, or LED holiday lights. Each bulb with this new technology uses only 0.04 watts and is up to 90 percent more efficient than its incandescent counterpart. So a household burning 10 strands of lights for eight hours a day for a month at $0.0853 per kilowatt-hour would spend $127.67 for large, incandescent bulbs, $7.20 for traditional mini-lights, and just $0.72 for LEDs. These newer bulbs are sturdy, last up to 100,000 hours, or 20 years, and barely warm up, eliminating fire concerns.
- To maximize holiday lighting savings, use timers to limit light displays to no more than six evening hours a day. Leaving lights on 24 hours a day will quadruple your energy costs -- and create four times the pollution.
- And be safe -- Untended lights can cause fires, so always unplug your interior holiday lights before going to bed or leaving the house.
- Stay cozy in your festive holiday attire by plugging air leaks and insulating. Sealing up air leaks with caulking and weather stripping -- including caulking around the fireplace hearth -- and installing adequate insulation for your climate will not only increase indoor comfort but will also reduce home heating costs by up to 20 percent.
- Don't send precious, costly warmed air up the chimney! While using fireplace, reduce heat loss by opening dampers in the bottom of the firebox (if provided) or opening the nearest window slightly (about an inch), closing the door to that room, and turning down the thermostat to 50 to 55 degrees. And don't forget to close the flue when you're done enjoying the fire.
- Decorate your home with "Energy Stars." Appliances and electronics with the Energy Star label -- the government's symbol of energy efficiency -- can cut related home energy bills up to 30 percent. Use the savings to jump-start your children's piggy bank accounts.
- Make a New Year's resolution that's good for your pocketbook and the environment. Get started on those energy-efficient home improvements you've been putting off for too long. Visit Web sites such as, http://www.ase.org/taxcredits for information on new federal income tax credits for energy-efficiency upgrades to your home beginning January 1, 2006.
- Let a programmable thermostat "remember" for you to lower the heat when you leave the house empty to go to work (or overnight when you're cozy in bed), or to the mall for a day of gift shopping -- and to warm it up again shortly before you return.
- In the spirit of Kwanzaa -- the African-American spiritual week of remembering, reassessing, recommitting, and rejoicing -- reassess your power consumption, recommit to energy-efficient practices, and rejoice in the savings.
- Pay the local kids to shovel your driveway. Better to give them some extra spending money than to use it towards the purchase of a smog-producing, gas-guzzling snow blower.
- No roasting chestnuts over an open halogen torchiere! It can burn hot enough to cause a fire, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Instead, give yourself the gift of an energy-efficient Energy Star-labeled torchiere lamp, for a brighter, thriftier, safer holiday.
- When you're looking for that last stocking stuffer for the kids, remember there's nothing wrong with gifts that are powered by the imagination, rather than by batteries or electricity.
- Strap on those cross-country skies or roller blades or ride your bike to tour the neighborhood holiday decorations. It's a great way to work off those extra holiday calories, and it's much cheaper than filling up your family SUV.
- Although frost on windows may be charming in holiday movies, it's uncomfortable in your own home. Depending on your financial capabilities, either cover single-pane windows with plastic film to avoid drafts, install storm windows, or upgrade to energy-efficient windows with double panes and low-emissivity coatings to dramatically improve indoor comfort, add beauty to your home, and save money during the holiday season and beyond.
- Unplug the video games and turn off the millionth broadcast of It's a Wonderful Life -- and read your favorite holiday story instead. Your children may appreciate your attention and time, and you will be saving energy in the process.
- Instead of leaving your door open to carolers and losing all that precious heat, pull on your parka and join in the fun. It's a great way to meet your neighbors, too.
- Give your family the extra gift of your time -- while energy-efficient products and technologies do the work for you -- reducing home energy and water bills and needless air pollution and increasing comfort day after day.
The Alliance to Save Energy is a coalition of prominent business, government, environmental, and consumer leaders who promote the efficient and clean use of energy worldwide to benefit consumers, the environment, economy, and national security.