Though energy use is typically highest during the peak months of summer, December is the next biggest culprit for pulling sneaky amounts of energy. Light shows, holiday feasts and entertainment abound, but they don’t have to lead to surprise energy bills ringing in the new year.
By nature, energy bills are higher when demand is higher. With most neighbors spending an extra week or two at home using energy in the cold, utilities in your community have to work a little harder to keep your spirits bright.
Here are some tips to keep your holiday season a little more sustainable, and to save you some money in the process. A little can go a long way.
Increasing Your Energy Efficiency
In a world increasingly powered by solar energy, energy efficiency can be overlooked. In some cases, simple energy-efficiency upgrades can even save homes as much energy as installing solar panels. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your home’s electricity this holiday season:
Keep light displays on timers: This is an easy way to make sure your lights are only on for four to six hours during the evening. Leaving your displays on all night (or all day) can make your holiday expenses three to four times higher. Use LED light bulbs when possible: Yes, yes, we know they’re more expensive. But energy-efficient LED bulbs use 75-99% less energy than regular bulbs and will last you 10 times as long, ultimately saving you money and hassle. Check your home for drafts: If you think you might have a drafty door or window, here’s a fun and simple test to be sure: Hold a lit candle near the window or door seams. If the flame bends, it means that a draft is letting the cold of the outside in, increasing the amount of energy it takes to heat your home. Keep your thermostat low: With more warm bodies gathered in the home to celebrate, less heat is needed from climate control to keep things warm. Cooking throughout the day will also generate a lot more heat in the kitchen than you might expect. Make sure to adjust your thermostat accordingly. Cook economically: Preheating, using and turning off your oven multiple times a day can use a great deal of energy. Plan to cook your meals around the same time if possible, and share oven space when you can.
Switching to Solar-Powered Decorations
Most people probably don’t associate solar energy with the wintery holiday season. While solar-powered lights generate their energy during the day, most models come complete with batteries where that energy can be stored. A few hours of afternoon sunshine (yes, even in the cold) is more than enough to keep your lights shining through the night.
Here are a few of our favorite ideas and solar-powered products for holiday decorating:
Solar holiday lights: The big advantages of solar string lights are that they don’t need to be plugged in and don’t require extension cords. Solar string lights are powered by a small panel (a few inches across) that can stay attached to your roof. They cost about the same as standard LED string lights. Those celebrating Christmas can find colorful lights for their homes or trees. If you’re looking for holiday cheer with little effort, a solar-powered light projector might be the right choice for your home. Solar-powered outdoor decorations: There are plenty of choices for solar-powered lawn and house decorations like trees, reindeers and more. We’ve even seen a solar-powered menorah.Solar pathway lights: These are some of our favorites. Both practical and useful during the rest of the year, solar pathway lights can be used to illuminate your walkways and gardens. Some homes can get creative with these, using them to create shapes and images in their yards. Similar to solar-powered string lights, these don’t need to be plugged into an electricity source.
Giving Solar-Powered Gifts
Short on a gift idea for a friend or family member? Solar products and gadgets make durable gifts that lessen your impact while encouraging a healthier lifestyle. Whether it be a solar speaker for the backyard or a charger to take on the go, there’s sure to be a solar product out there for anyone on your list.
Here are a few of our favorites:
Solar phone chargers: Great for teens and adults, solar phone chargers are a convenient way to keep your phone juiced while away from home. Some more advanced solar chargers can power larger devices like cameras, tablets and even computers. Solar speakers: REVEAL’s Solar Speaker is one of our top solar gifts for music lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. Powered by the sun and made with an eco-friendly wood design, these solar speakers can keep your music bumping for as long as 15 hours without sunlight. This gift is perfect for camping trips, vacations or teens wanting to take their music on the go.Solar lanterns: With no shortage of uses, solar lanterns make a great eco-friendly gift. Useful for camping, emergency situations, porches, patios and more, these low-impact gifts can provide warm light in any situation. Many solar lanterns are even capable of charging phones.Outdoor solar lights: As it seems we’re all spending more time at home these days, many of us are on home-decorating kicks. A gift that we love this year is outdoor solar lights. Illuminating pathways, gardens or plants with wireless, sustainable lighting has never been more affordable or sustainable. Check out our full guide to the best outdoor solar lights for specific product recommendations.
If you’re looking for more ways to make your holiday season more sustainable, check out our full holiday gift guide, eco-friendly stocking stuffer ideas and sustainable gift wrap examples to have a low- or even zero-waste holiday.
Karsten Neumeister is a writer and renewable energy specialist with a background in writing and the humanities. Before joining EcoWatch, Karsten worked in the energy sector of New Orleans, focusing on renewable energy policy and technology. A lover of music and the outdoors, Karsten might be found rock climbing, canoeing or writing songs when away from the workplace.
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