Energy-saving tips for Christmas

Matthew Grocoff

December 19, 2012

By: Matthew Grocoff, Green Renovation Expert

In: Green Living

It's not just the cold weather that causes your electric bill to jump. Christmas lights, out-of-town guests, and stupid thermostats can all jack your bill. Come January you get that post-holiday energy hangover when the December utility bill arrives.

Here are a few simple things you can do to avoid having to send the utility company a bonus check after New Years.

LED Christmas lights

Not only will LED lights last ten times as long as old school lights, they will quite literally pay for themselves in energy savings. Let's do the math for a string of 70 Christmas lights

  • 350 Watts = Old school incandescent
  • 3.5 Watts = LED
  • TOTAL SAVINGS = 346.5 Watts

Now, let's assume you leave them on for 6 hours per day for 45 days (total 270 hours). At 11 cents per kWh hour you will spend $10.35 per string for the incandescents compared to a meager 95 cents for the LED. Now if you've got ten strings of lights you just sent your utility company a $100 Christmas gift.


outdoor timer

The above numbers assume that you have not had six eggnogs, you are not passed out naked under the Christmas tree and you remembered to turn off the lights after six hours. In the extreme case you leave your lights on for 12 hours a day your lighting decorations bill is now $200.

The easiest way to ensure that your lights aren't left on until ridculous hours of the night is to put them on an inexpensive timer. There are many choices for both indoor and outdoor timers. Get one. Then you'll have one less thing to worry about while nursing your egg nog hangover and having to explain to grandma what happen to your clothes.

Smart thermostats

nest thermostat

The best Christmas gift you can give yourself is a smart thermostat. Not a "programmable" thermostat, but a "smart" thermostat. These are thermostats that you can control from your phone or computer and are smart enough to know how to optimize your comfort and save energy.

Chances are at some point in your life you've left for vacation and smacked yourself on the forehead after realizing you forgot to lower the thermostat. The money you could have saved on heating during that two-week ski trip could have paid for some hot cocoa and a round of drinks for everyone at the lodge during apres ski.

With a smart thermostat you can set vacation settings months in advance or from your phone on the cab ride to the airport. Best of all you can set it to be at the temperature you like the minute you return. Right when you open the door upon your return the house will already be at the cozy temperature you like.

ecobee iphone thermostat

If you're staying home for the holidays the smart thermostat will let you keep your house guests cozy while lowering the temp and saving you money while they are sleeping or when you're out visiting Santa at the mall. Again, the smart thermostat returns to the temperature you like before you wake up or before you get back from the mall -- optimal comfort with optimal savings.

Here are some smart thermostats I love:



Don't run out of hot water!!!

Other than drunk Uncle Carl the most annoying thing about holiday guests is being the last one in the shower and running out of hot water. The solution is not necessarily to run out and buy a 100 gallon hot water tank. For under $50 you can buy a high-performance shower head that will perform as well as a standard shower head but will use a full gallon less per minute.

water saving showerhead

Again, let's have fun with the math:

  • You have 8 relatives taking turns in the shower on December 26th.
  • They each take a 7 minute shower.
  • Your crappy, old, low-performing shower (2.5 gallons per minute) will use 17.5 gallons of hot water per shower, or a total of 140 gallons of hot water!
  • Your new high-performing shower head (1.5 gallons per minute) will use only 10.5 gallons of hot water, or a total of only 84 gallons of hot water.
  • For the old shower head you'll need 3 1/2 full 40 gallon tanks of hot water. Good luck getting any hot water after three consecutive showers. For the high-performance, 1.5-gpm shower head you'll use only about two tanks of hot water…

The best part is that a family of four will save about 16,000 of hot water every year (meaning lower energy bills)...and you'll have plenty of hot water without having to share a shower with Uncle Carl at Christmas.

Here are my favorite shower heads (and I've tried them all!):



Caroma Flow


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