December 2019 EnergyWiseSM Tip: Holiday Surprises
By: Energy Efficiency Program Manager Cory Fuehrer
Ever rediscover one of those Christmas gifts you intended to give during the holidays but forgot where you hid it until the following February? It can be a pleasant surprise if you can still gift it in the future, return it for a refund or use it yourself. Unfortunately, your January or February electric bill may reflect similar holiday surprises. I’m referring to those things you did or items you used during the festivities that may have negatively impacted your electrical bill. Unfortunately, you can’t undo or "re-gift" these holiday surprises, and you will have to pay for the energy they waste regardless of whether they added to your seasonal cheer.
Nobody wants to be cold for Christmas! To chase away the chill, you may find it convenient to plug in a portable space heater in a spare bedroom or other seldomly-used area to accommodate guests. But do you shut off the heater after they leave? When investigating wintertime "high bill" inquiries, the most common responses residential energy consultants hear about space heaters is, "Oh, that little heater couldn’t have added that much to my bill!" Nearly all space heaters have more than one temperature setting. Of those, the highest setting usually operates around 1,500 watts or 1.5 kilowatts (kW). If the heater operates continuously at that level for an entire month (30 days or 720 hours), it will add 1,080 kilowatt-hours (kWh) to your electric bill. At Nebraska’s 2019 average residential price of electricity (11.84¢/kWh), that little heater magically adds $128! Don’t open yourself up to this kind of surprise. To ensure the heater does not operate when unneeded, simply unplug it.
A warm and glowing fire invites everyone to share in the spirit of the season. But once the embers are extinguished and the fumes vented, heated indoor air continues to escape up the stack. Surprise! As soon as safely possible, tightly close the damper to minimize the amount of conditioned air escaping up the chimney. Check the seals around your damper, then repair or replace dampers that don’t tightly seal.
Whether it’s grandma trying to clear the kitchen of smoke from burning bacon or Uncle Eddie clearing the bathroom from whatever was burning him, somebody’s going to turn on an exhaust fan. Chances are, that fan will continue to run long after pollutants are gone. Kitchen exhaust hoods can often draw 250 to 500 cubic feet of air per minute (cfm). Bathroom exhaust fans remove 50 to 150 cfm. When they are ducted to the outdoors, conditioned air pulled out of the house is replaced by cold outdoor air that is sucked in through gaps or tiny cracks around windows, doors, foundations, rooflines or other wall penetrations. All this "new" air must be heated to maintain indoor comfort. To minimize the amount of additional heating required, turn kitchen exhaust hoods off as soon as airborne food contaminants are removed, and install a timer switch on bathroom fans to minimize over-exhausting.
Inevitably, Santa will bring some lucky child one of newest gaming systems, like the PlayStation 4 Pro, rated at a maximum of 165 watts, or the Xbox One X, rated at 245 watts, or even worse, a dedicated Gaming PC drawing 750 continuous watts. Then, with delight in their heart, that child will skip gleefully to the room with your entertainment center and connect their new gaming system to your 85-inch big screen television that draws 175 watts, as well as the surround sound system that pulls another 150 watts. For the rest of the holiday vacation, they become affixed to YOUR couch challenging siblings, aunts, uncles, and even the mailman to a video game showdown while your electric meter is spinning. Now ask yourself this – "What is the likelihood of them turning off everything when they finally put down their controller?" Go and check to avoid this surprise. Better yet, if electronics won’t be used in the next few hours, unplug them, as most electronics still draw a small amount of power when they are turned "off."
By now, you know LED Christmas lights can use up to 99%less energy per bulb than conventional incandescent lights. But if your home is filled with family and especially young kids this season, anticipate every light you own will be turned on at some time. According to a survey conducted by Lutron Electronics, 90%of Americans say someone in their household forgets to turn the lights off when they leave a room. Surprised? Don’t be. After your last guest leaves, take a thorough tour of your home and outside buildings. You’ll likely be glad you did.
Southwest Public Power District, in partnership with Nebraska Public Power District, wishes you and those closest to you the best of holiday seasons. For additional ideas on how you can make your home comfortable and EnergyWiseSM this winter, contact Southwest Public Power District or visit www.nppd.com. You may even find you are eligible for incentives to help with the cost of energy-saving home improvements.