In these days of rising energy costs and increasing environmental awareness, many people are trying to find ways to save on their energy usage, both to cut costs and help save the planet. But what can you do when you’re entertaining? You can’t unplug the TV or turn off all the lights if you’re having a party. Here are a few tips to help you save energy and still have a great time.
1 Use solar lighting outdoors.
Solar power is the cheapest energy imaginable: once you’ve covered the initial cost of the equipment, all you need is sunlight. Fortunately, you don’t have to have a giant solar array to help defray your energy costs when entertaining.
For outdoor parties, consider purchasing solar garden stakes, available at most home and garden supply stores. They range in price from around $2-$10 apiece, though very elaborate lighting can cost much more. You can do a lot with these: place them around your garden or walkway for illumination, or use them to spotlight certain “feature” areas. You can even use just the light fixtures in a candelabra or chandelier in place of lightbulbs or candles. Instant (and non-flammable!) mood lighting!
Many stores also now sell solar-powered decorative lights, such as mini-light strands and lanterns. These can be a great option, especially for outdoor decorating around the holidays. (They won’t work inside, though.) Wrapping miniature lights around tree trunks gives them a festive look all year round, and with solar lighting, it won’t cost you a penny in extra power costs.
2 Buy miniature lights for the holidays.
Many people love to light up their homes for the holidays, especially at Christmastime. But all those lights can add up to a huge power bill, and even if you use solar lights outside, you can’t use them indoors where there’s no sun. Instead of using old-fashioned light strands with large bulbs (often marked “C7” or “C9” on the packaging), buy miniature lights! They use approximately 70% less energy than their larger counterparts, and are also less hazardous for using on live Christmas trees because they give off less heat.
If you want to save even more energy, consider buying LED holiday lights. They cost a little bit more upfront, but they will last for up to 20 years and use up to 90% less energy than traditional lights.
3 Cook smart.
Ovens make a fantastic holiday roast or turkey, but they can also consume a huge amount of energy, much of which is wasted every time you open the oven door. Next time you host a dinner party or holiday get-together, plan dishes that can be prepared in alternative ways. Using a slow-cooker to make pot roast, for example, can cost just pennies. Microwaves are now so efficient that they cook things much faster than ovens, so try heating up vegetables or cooking potatoes in the microwave rather than heating up the oven.
When you just have to use the oven, there are a couple of things you can do to help conserve energy. First, get a large stone tile (available at home and garden supply stores) or pizza stone and place it in the oven. When you heat the oven up, the stone will help keep the oven hot, reducing the work of the heating elements. When checking on the progress of food, look through the window if your oven has one, rather than opening the door. Opening the oven door can reduce the internal temperature by up to 25 degrees which means your oven has to use more energy to heat back up again.
4 Let machines do the work.
Keep your refrigerator and freezer well-stocked. Every time you open the refrigerator or freezer door, you let some cold air out that the appliance then has to replace. Not only is plenty of food practically a requirement for a great party, full refrigerators and freezers have a faster recovery time: the food helps maintain the internal temperature, saving energy and money.
A great party can come with a mountain of dishes in the sink afterward. Don’t be afraid to use the dishwasher! A load of dishes done using a dishwasher uses between 30%-40% less water than the average washing by hand. Many dishwashers now are energy-efficient and come with energy-saving settings such as “air dry” and “light wash.” Use those whenever possible to cut your energy bill.
5 Cool off.
If you’re having a lot of people over, consider turning down your thermostat in the winter. More people in the house means more body heat, which can raise the temperature of the room by several degrees. You’ll stay toasty warm without wasting energy.
In the summer, consider using ceiling fans rather than cranking up your air conditioner. Ceiling fans cost just pennies to operate, and they can cool a room by several degrees, letting you keep the thermostat set higher. If you’ll be in predominantly one area of your house, a rotary or stand electric fan will help cool you off but is about ten times cheaper to operate than a central air conditioner.
You don’t have to sacrifice style or comfort when you’re entertaining, even when you’re being energy-smart. These simple tips will help make your next party fabulous and frugal!
Sam Jones is a regular writer on energy related matters. He likes to pass on energy saving tips like going to uSwitch price comparison website and using the online comparison facility to secure the cheapest energy prices
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