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During the busy holiday season, your home energy usage might be the last thing on your mind. But that will quickly change when you receive your utility bill. And despite the fact that you go through the same occurrence every year, the hustle and bustle of the holidays always seem to take precedence. When you’re busy decorating the house, preparing for and entertaining guests, and sneaking in your holiday gift shopping in every spare moment, it’s easy enough to overlook the fact that the kids keep turning up the thermostat or that the cold drafts around the house have gotten worse. Luckily, there are some easy steps you can take to conserve energy this year, in addition to traditional options like putting on sweaters and turning off the lights. Here are a few you might want to try.

  1. Plan baking. If you’re like most people you probably do quite a bit of cooking over the holidays, not only for family meals and potluck parties, but also in the way of baking seasonal treats. If you want to conserve some energy and other utilities (gas, for example), try to plan your cooking jags so that you can get a lot of baking done at once. You can make large batches of cookies, breads, and other treats all on one day and then freeze them until you have an event or you’re ready to dole them out. You could do the same thing with some holiday meals, as well, if you have plenty of freezer space for storage. Casseroles, for example, are one item that you can cook in massive amounts to freeze for later thawing and reheating.
  2. Schedule your programmable thermostat. One of the best ways to conserve energy in the home is to make good use of your programmable thermostat by setting a schedule that works for your family. You don’t need to have the heat pumping out when everyone is at work or school, and by setting the thermostat to reach a comfortable temperature when the family returns home, the system will warm up in steady increments, using a lot less energy in the process. And 5+2 day models allow you to set one schedule for weekdays and another for weekends. As a bonus, many digital thermostats come with a lock of some sort so that you can keep kids from overriding the settings or otherwise tampering with your efforts at conservation.
  3. Follow temperature standards. Energy Star advises that you set your heat no higher than 70? Fahrenheit when you’re at home and that you scale it back at least eight degrees when you’re away or during the night when you’re snug under the covers.
  4. Consider a home energy audit. A professional auditor that assesses your home will deliver a report telling you exactly where energy waste is occurring. This can help you figure out where to add insulation, weather stripping, caulk, foam, and other types of sealant around windows, doors, and vents, for example, in order to fill gaps that are letting the cold air in and the bought air out.
  5. Upgrade your HVAC. If your furnace is outdated or your ductwork is sub-standard, it might be time to upgrade your system for greater energy efficiency. If you want to go all out and get really green, you could think about installing a geo-exchange. But this is a major expense. Instead you might want to consider an Energy Star furnace or a packaged hybrid heat system of some sort. These options will cost you up-front, but the payoff is greater energy efficiency and savings over time.

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