Make the holidays merry and bright while keeping your energy bill in check

Make the holidays merry and bright while keeping your energy bill in check. 

The holidays, and winter specifically, can mean higher energy bills. Maybe you’re hosting fun gatherings or welcoming out-of-town guests. Maybe the kids are home from school. Or maybe dropping temperatures have you reaching for the thermostat more than usual. It can be hard to keep your energy bill under control this time of year, but we’re here to help keep things jolly without costing you more jingle. 

The host with the most (energy savings).

‘Tis the season for at-home socializing, especially if family or friends plan on staying with you. More people means more showers, more laundry, more dishes and, of course, more opinions about the “right” temperature to set the thermostat. While you may not be able to get away with using less energy while hosting overnight guests, you can at least take some measures to reduce the impact of additional energy-users. 

Try the “set it and forget it” thermostat approach.

Everyone’s preferred indoor temperature is different. Rather than drive yourself crazy adjusting the thermostat all day (which makes your HVAC system work harder), take a “set it and forget it” approach, aiming for 68° F or cooler. Body heat goes a long way, and with more people in the house, you can probably go a few degrees lower than your normal setting. For every degree below 72° F, you can save up to 3% on your energy bill.

Unplug space heaters.

Space heaters are energy eaters. But they’re also a game changer in older homes with drafty rooms or spotty insulation. If you have space heaters, make sure someone is always home when they’re on. Unattended space heaters are a big-time fire hazard. Make sure you remind your guests to turn them off or unplug them when they’re not in use. Even when a space heater is off, it will still continue to use energy because it is plugged into an outlet.

Wash clothes in cold water, and don’t overstuff the dryer.

Your washer and dryer may be working overtime, but a gentle request to guests can help manage energy use. It takes electricity to create hot water, so encouraging guests to wash on cold will not only keep more hot water available for showers and hand washing, but it’ll also get clothes just as clean. 

A too-full dryer requires a longer drying cycle, which means more electricity is used. Clothes need to have enough room to tumble so that warm air can get between them. Break up larger wash loads into smaller drying loads, and separate heavier items, like blankets, sheets and bath towels, from clothing. (Don’t forget to clean the lint trap. Your guests may forget or feel uncomfortable tinkering with your machine. A full lint trap not only makes your dryer work harder, but it’s also a fire hazard.)

Don’t pre-rinse dishes before putting them in the dishwasher.

This might become a hotter debate than politics over pot roast, but the truth is, the energy efficiency of dishwashers has come a long way, and so has the cleaning power of dishwashing detergents. In fact, quality dish detergents can’t effectively do their job if they don’t have anything to cling to. Food scraps still need to go into the garbage or compost, but skip the pre-rinse and you’ll not only save a ton of water but you’ll also save the energy that would have been used to heat your rinse water.

This might also sound crazy, but it’s true. If you have an energy efficient dishwasher, then it doesn’t need to be full before you run it. An ENERGY STAR® dishwasher uses less than 4 gallons of water total per cycle compared to washing dishes by hand, which uses 4 gallons every 2 minutes!

It’s the holidays and the kids are home from school. 

If you don’t have out-of-town guests, but your permanent residents (ahem, your kids) are out of school, at home and using energy like it’s going out of style, we can help… at least for a few minutes.

Try a holiday-lights-only night.

Tap into the magic of the holidays while also saving some energy. Turn off all the lights in the house except for any indoor holiday lighting. Eat a picnic dinner, read bedtime stories or make shadow puppets under the sparkly glow. 

Bored teenagers? Send them on an energy-saving mission.

TVA EnergyRight offers a free, online DIY Home Energy Assessment. During the assessment, your kids will move through the house (avoiding any places you deem off limits) to find out how your home uses and loses energy. At the end of the assessment, you’ll get an easy-to-read report with customized energy improvement recommendations specific to your home, plus an energy-saving kit and a $10 home improvement store gift card. Often, these reports include easy DIY home energy upgrades that older kids could tackle, like putting LED light bulbs in lamps and adjusting the temperatures of the refrigerator and freezer.

Create greener, cleaner challenges.

For a lot of kids, the holidays mean gifts. With more physical goods coming into the home, it’s a great time to challenge everyone in the house, not just children, to practice some simple sustainability skills. Try the “One In, One Out” game where for every new gift someone receives, they find a gently used toy, game, article of clothing or accessory to donate. Research as a family where you want to donate everything you’ve collected.

Gifts also usually mean lots of shipping boxes and packaging. Find creative uses for the boxes, like building a box fort or a doll house. Make a game out of breaking down the boxes and work together to make sure they get recycled.  

Energy-saving seasonal hacks. 

Give yourself the gift of a less stressful holiday season with a few basic energy-saving winter hacks. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Leave air vents open and unobstructed.

Shutting off the flow of heat to a room that isn’t being used might seem like it would save energy by redistributing the heat to other rooms, but that’s not quite how it works. Too many closed registers (HVAC lingo for air vents) can cause damage to your HVAC compressor, allowing pressure to build in your air ducts, which can turn tiny leaks into a big, big problem.

Plus, the size of your HVAC system is designed to provide the right amount of heating and cooling to your home. So when air vents get blocked off, your system is still going to produce the same amount of air, only now there are fewer places for it to flow. That creates pressure and will cause your system to work harder, meaning more electricity, and you guessed it, a higher utility bill.

Finally, holiday decorations can often mean furniture and rugs get temporarily rearranged. Double check that you don’t have anything blocking your air vent —  like a couch, drapes, an entertainment center or Christmas tree skirt — to ensure maximum air flow and maximum energy efficiency.

Weatherstrip doors and windows.

A little gap here, a little gap there — if you think those drafty spots around doors and windows aren’t that big of a deal, think again. Even just a 1/8-inch gap around the entryway of a door is equivalent to drilling a five-inch hole through the outside wall! That’s a ton of space for cold air to slip in and your heat (and money) to slip out. Fortunately, weatherstripping is a super simple and affordable DIY project you can knock out quickly. Most home improvement stores carry door sweeps for larger gaps at the bottom of doors and weatherstripping to seal windows and the sides of doors.

Find a contractor before there’s a home energy emergency.

Most people only find out they have an issue with their water heater or HVAC system when it breaks. Combine that emergency situation with the stress of the holidays or house guests and you might find yourself in a real-life nightmare before Christmas. 

Get ahead of any unplanned seasonal snafus and find a contractor now that you can have on speed dial in case of emergency. TVA EnergyRight and local power companies provide customers with free access to the Quality Contractor Network, where you can find licensed and insured contractors vetted by TVA to perform home energy upgrades, like repairing or replacing an HVAC system or water heater. Plus, every Quality Contractor Network contractor can help identify any home energy rebates you may be eligible for through our rebates program and connect you to the affordable financing options we offer.

Find more ho-ho-home energy savings with TVA EnergyRight.

From everyday lifestyle changes to large-scale home energy upgrades, TVA EnergyRight is here to help you boost your home’s energy efficiency. This holiday season, explore all our tools and resources designed to bring more comfort and joy (and a manageable energy bill) all year long. 

Discover everything TVA EnergyRight has to offer.


The Residential Team


Save energy and money at home. The TVA EnergyRight Residential Team is here to help you improve your home's energy efficiency so you can lower your bill and live more comfortably.