Holiday Energy-Saving Tips

As the holidays approach and people begin to brighten their homes and neighborhoods with trails of lights, TXU Energy offers energy-saving tips that can help save money.

One key step is to set thermostats to about 70 degrees or lower during the winter months when away from the home for more than a few hours. In addition, by installing programmable thermostats, residents can adjust their home's temperature automatically without sacrificing comfort.

People who keep neighborhood streets illuminated with holiday light displays should consider the use of timers to limit the amount of hours that lights are on. To avoid overloading electrical circuits, all extra seasonal lights should not be plugged into one socket or circuit.

Winter Tips

  • Window treatments -- Install storm or thermal windows and doors or double-paned glass. A less expensive alternative is plastic sheeting, which can be temporarily fastened over doors and windows to prevent drafts and retain heat.
  • Weatherstrip/caulk air leaks and insulate -- Sealing up air leaks with caulking and weather stripping and installing adequate insulation in walls and the attic are some of the most cost effective savings measures you can do in your home.
  • Close doors -- Keep all doors shut and try to minimize the number of times doors to the outside are opened and closed. Each time you open the door cold air enters the house.
  • Energy Labels -- Review the ENERGY GUIDE label (http://www1.eere.energy.gov/consumer/tips/energyguide.html) when buying or replacing larger appliances such as refrigerators, freezers, washers and dryers. If you are thinking about purchasing a new TV or VCR, look for ENERGY STAR® models. ENERGY STAR® TVs and VCRs use less energy and save money.
  • Unplug/turn off electronic devices -- Unplug the video games and turn off the television. Play board games or read your favorite holiday story with the kids instead.
  • Temperature settings -- Set thermostats at about 70 degrees during the winter and even lower when away from the house for more than a few hours. While sleeping, add an extra blanket for warmth. Turn down thermostats automatically without sacrificing comfort by installing a programmable thermostat.
  • Furnace filter -- Clean or replace your furnace filter monthly to help your furnace run more efficiently.
  • Water heater -- Set water heater temperatures at 120 degrees. A family of four, each showering for five minutes a day, uses 700 gallons of water each week. By lowering the thermostat on the water heater to 120 degrees, families can cut water heating bills without sacrificing comfort.
  • Heating vents -- Close outside vents (were applicable), and close dampers on unused fireplaces.

Holiday Lighting Tips:

  • Energy efficient lights -- Use light-emitting diode (LED) holiday lights. LED's are durable, last for several years, and conserve more energy than the incandescent counterpart.
  • Timers -- Use timers to limit light displays to no more than six evening hours a day.
  • Unplug lights -- Always unplug all holiday lights at the wall outlet before going to bed or leaving the house. Untended lights can cause fires and cost you extra money.
  • Fire extinguishers and detectors -- Keep a fire extinguisher handy and your smoke detectors in good working order. Avoid fire by keeping your natural tree well watered and keeping extension cords and light sets away from the water.
  • Electrical circuits -- Do not overload electrical circuits by plugging all your extra seasonal lights into one socket or circuit.
  • Defective lights -- Check light sets for frayed wires, damaged sockets or cracked insulation. If you find defects, replace the entire set.
  • Mini lights -- Replace larger-bulb lights with mini lights. They use less energy and last longer.
  • Floodlights -- Consider floodlights for outdoor lighting. Floodlights are available for both standard incandescent and halogen bulbs. Halogen bulbs give more intense light and use less energy.
  • Ground fault circuit interrupter -- For outdoor lighting, use a ground fault circuit interrupter on each circuit. If current "leaks" through frayed or damaged wires, the interrupter automatically shuts it off.
  • Outdoor lights -- Attach outdoor lights with hooks. Do not use staples, nails or tacks.
  • Extension cords -- Replace damaged electrical cords. Do not attempt to repair them. Also, tape all outside extension cord connections to seal out moisture.

For more energy efficiency tips and to use TXU's online Holiday Light Calculator, go to http://www.txu.com/holidaytips.

This article originally appeared in the 11/01/2006 issue of Environmental Protection.

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