Four Energy Tips to Help You Survive the Holidays

Joy, peace, love, prosperity in the New Year. These are some of the warm thoughts and feelings we often associate with the holiday season.

But, for many, the holidays also offer plenty of reasons to be stressed out -- the gifts you haven’t wrapped (or even bought), the pile of cookies to bake and decorate, the awkward office parties and the in-laws overstaying their welcome.

At the same time, it’s the time of the year when most households are likely to use more energy, adding sky-high energy bills to your list of seasonal worries.

But there’s good news: There are many ways in which you can reduce energy consumption during the holiday season, and smart grid-enabled technologies can play a major role in helping you do so.

Don’t let your holiday energy usage become another reason for stress this time of year. Here are four tips that can increase your energy efficiency, decrease your next bill and help you have a peaceful and joyous holiday season.

1. Automate your home when you’re away

Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister in a scene from "Home Alone."Heading out of town for the holidays? Don’t wind up like the McCallisters of Home Alone fame. These days, there are a number of options to automate your home that give you control and peace of mind while you’re away.

A WiFi-connected thermostat, for example, can save you money on power and keep your home comfortable for when you return.

With a smart thermostat's smart home setting, sensors in your home can detect whether you're home or away and adjust the temperature accordingly. Forgot to program that you're away? You can quickly make adjustments from afar using your mobile app.

And with home lighting automation, you can keep intruders away by giving the illusion that you’re home. You can also get alerts on your smartphone if lights in your house are being turned on or off – in case you happen to have left a crafty eight-year-old troublemaker behind in the rush to get to Paris.

2. Gift yourself savings with new pricing programs

You may be missing out on savings on your bill each month and not even know it. The smart grid enables new pricing programs that allow you to save money and energy by helping utilities reduce peak demand (that is, times of heightened use).

The price of electricity varies significantly depending on the season and time of day. During certain months, electricity prices often remain below the standard fixed rate, and rates are often lower during off-peak times, like nights and weekends.

Dynamic pricing programs can allow you to pay the fluctuating market rate for your power, and when you shift some of your usage from the peak times, like hot summer weekdays, to off-peak times, like nights or weekends, these programs allow you to save money.

Take a load off this holiday season, and ask your electric provider about pricing programs that could save you money on each month’s bill – starting you off on a prosperous New Year.

3. Optimize your energy efficiency to stay warm

Chilly weather, cozy home. When temperatures drop below freezing, all you want is a comfortable place to relax and spend time with friends and family (or Netflix and a bottle of wine). Even if you’re trying to save on your next energy bill, your home doesn’t need to feel like the North Pole.

While a smart thermostat is step one, by using a home energy management system, you can manage all of the smart energy products in your home, including lighting, appliances and HVAC, thereby increasing your energy efficiency to an even greater extent, keeping your house warm but your monthly bill low.

Also, by conducting a home energy assessment, you can evaluate how much energy your home consumes and consider what measures you can take to make your home more energy efficient. You may also qualify for rebates for energy efficiency improvements to your home through your energy provider.

4. Take solace in power reliability and better communications

PHOTO CREDIT: National Lampoon Christmas VacationThe roast is out of the oven. The table is set. The guests are hungry and waiting. The last thing that you need is for the power to go out just as you’re ready to enjoy a painstakingly prepared holiday feast.

While most of us give little thought to whether the lights will turn on when we flip the switch, on any given day, the equivalent of half a million people in the U.S. are without power for two hours or more, and winter weather is one of the major causes of power outages

But smart grid technologies can keep your lights on this holiday season by routing energy around the problem area. And if your power does happen to go out, the smart grid decreases diagnosis and response time from the utility, getting you back to your holiday festivities faster.

The smart grid also includes several components that help utilities better deliver quality power to your home. With actual information on voltage due to more efficient digital technology through the smart grid, utilities can optimize the voltage for every customer they serve.

This provides you with a more reliable power supply that allows your appliances and other electronic devices to operate at their highest efficiencies and minimizes your cost to run them.

From everyone at the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative, have a safe, happy and hopefully stress-free holiday season.

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