Five ways Christmas can hit your energy bills

By James Fritz Tuesday 10 December 2013

The Lights


Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without lighting up your house like the Blackpool illuminations. How else is Santa going to know where to land his sleigh if he can’t see the eight-foot snowman perched proudly on your front lawn?

But remember - what every extra blinking light adds in yuletide cheer, it more than matches in additional energy costs.

Question: if Rudolph’s nose flashes and there’s nobody around to see it, does it still make a light?

Answer: Yeah. And an expensive one, at that. To help cut your energy bill, make sure you only leave your Christmas lights on when you really need them. Using an automatic socket timer saves you the responsibility of checking the lights are switched off - just set the timer for when you’re asleep and you know you’re going to be out.

You should also think about swapping your holiday lights for a set of LED bulbs. Not only are they safe for kids to touch, they can also save up to ninety percent of your energy costs. What's more they are incredibly long lasting, putting an end to the festive tradition of swearing at a box of bulbs as you try and work out which one still works after twenty years in the attic.

If you’re feeling really bold, you could forego electric lights altogether and decorate the house with candles. Not only will you save sackfuls of cash, you can tell the family that you’re being ‘authentic’.

The Cooking


When you’re hosting during the holidays it can feel as if you never leave the kitchen. Be it tending to that honey-glazed ham, that prize pudding or those mince pies that you left in for just a bit too long, there’s no other time of the year where you and your oven are such close pals.

Thankfully there are a few things you can do to help cut the energy costs of constant cooking.

On a natural gas stove make sure you match the pot size to the hob which you place it on - this helps more heat get to the pot and helps save energy. Remember when you're slow roasting your turkey or ham, there's little point pre-heating the oven since hat bad boy will be cooking for hours anyway.

And we know it’s difficult, but try and resist the urge to continually check on the progress of your culinary masterpieces - opening the oven door can dramatically reduce temperatures, which wastes energy and prolongs cooking times and means bigger bills and hungrier guests. Similarly opening and closing the fridge constantly causes the temperature to fluctuate, wasting electricity. Try and make one big trip to the fridge rather than going back and forth.

The Family

Christmas, of course, is all about family. It’s the one time of year we take time out of our busy lives to get together, criticise the dryness of a dead bird, have a row and fall asleep in front of Eastenders. But while all that family time can sap your emotional reserves, it’s just as much of a drain on your energy resources. More people in the house means more lights on, more food consumed and longer heating hours.

To counter this, try and make all your guests aware of leaving lights and appliances on when they leave the room. Keep a beady eye on anything on standby that’s not being used. And remember - more people also means more body heat. The one advantage to being descended upon by the family hordes is that you can dial down that thermostat by a couple of degrees without anyone noticing. There’s something rather Christmassy about a family coming together to provide warmth and comfort for each other, isn’t there? No? Just us, moving on....

The Cold  

Still dreaming of a white Christmas? You’ll soon be praying for the snow to leave and never come back.This winter is predicted to be the coldest since 1947, which is why you should do as much as possible to keep the heating bill down.

You can start by making sure your house has been fully draught-proofed. These inexpensive and easy jobs can save you an average of £55 a year on your heating bill.

It's also time to pass out the Christmas jumpers. Not only do they look awesome, they also increase body heat by as much as four degrees, meaning you can dial down that thermostat right down.  And if everyone wears one, no-one feels embarrassed. Bonus.

Christmas is also the perfect time to go all Dickensian and gather round the fire or woodburner, roasting chestnuts, swapping stories and pretending that you haven’t just come to blows over a controversial Monopoly result. The heat caused by an efficient fireplace can be warm enough for you to keep the heating off for a few hours. Just remember to use waste wood rather than coal to keep your fire as green as possible.

The Entertainment


Chances are your TV will be working overtime over the holidays:  studies have shown that the average person will spend five and a half hours a day watching television during the Christmas period.  And even during those rare moments that the TV’s not on, the soundsystem will be cranking out Wham for the umpteenth time. Add in young (and old-enough-to-know-better) members of the family cranking up the games consoles and the pounds can really start to be packed on to your electricity bill.

Short of making everyone sit around quietly and talk to each other (the horror!) there’s not much you can do about the extra power usage, other than make sure appliances aren’t left on standby. An effective way of doing this is to invest in an intelligent mains controller. These handy little gadgets step when you’re too full of turkey to hit the off button, automatically turning off appliances when you’re done with them.

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