This time of year you’re sure to see your neighbours dragging plastic Santas out of the garage, cramming Christmas trees through the doorways and unsnarling strings of holiday lights.
Decorating can be a hassle, but with a little planning, you can create a beautiful display that won’t have you saying “bah humbug” when the energy bill arrives.
Five tips for saving energy this holiday season:
Look for LED holiday bulbs. The average holiday light uses five to seven watts per bulb, and some older strings use up to 10 watts per bulb. The new LED lights use less than half a watt per bulb. They’re also shatterproof, water resistant and safe to touch.
Don’t like the look of LEDs? Downsize to miniature lights. They use up to 70 per cent less energy and last much longer than larger bulbs.
Admit it: You’ll never remember to turn the lights off. That’s why you need automatic timers both indoors and out.
It’s not just the holiday lights that run up your energy bill: It’s also all the cooking. You’re probably not using your oven as efficiently as you could be. Sure, it’s fun to peek at the pies as they cook, but the temperature inside your oven drops as much as 25 degrees every time you open the door. So resist the temptation and use the oven light instead.
The dishwasher is your friend. A load of dishes cleaned in a dishwasher requires 37 per cent less water than washing dishes by hand. Don’t forget to use the energy-saving cycles whenever you can. Dishwashers with air power or overnight dry settings can take as much as 10 percent off dishwashing energy costs.
Hospitals are busy places during the holiday season, so here are five tips for staying safe:
Use only outdoor lights in your yard. The box will tell you which is which.
Don’t pull a Chevy Chase. Stay off the roof! Not only do you risk sliding off, you can also cause damage that will lead to leaks.
Look on the back of your holiday lights box to find out how many strands you can put together. Ignoring that number can cause a fire.
Make sure your lights are safety certified. Look for a label that says “Underwriters Laboratories Approved’ or ‘UL Listed.’
Test your lights before you hang them. Before you plug them in, look for cracked or loose sockets and connections, exposed wires, and frayed, broken or scorched insulation. Then put them on a nonflammable surface and plug them in for 10 to 15 minutes, checking for melting, smoking or overheating.
Holiday trees are expensive! Make sure yours is worth the money. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, as many as 35 million families will buy live Christmas trees this year. Five tips for making sure your tree will last:
Slam the cut tree down on the ground stump first before you buy it. If a lot of needles fall off, this one’s a dud.
Cut at least an inch off the trunk just before you put it in the tree stand. This will help the tree absorb water.
Leave the tree outside until you’re ready to decorate it. The air inside is generally dryer and will suck moisture out of your tree.
Your tree stand should hold at least four litres of water. A six-foot tree goes through a gallon every two days, so anything less won’t cut it.
Water your tree every day, and add a commercial preservative.
Three ways to avoid mess and reduce hassle:
‘Gift-wrap’ your holiday tree. Buy a disposable plastic drop cloth and cut a small hole in the middle. Push the trunk through the hole before you put the tree in the stand. Cut a small slit to add water when you need to, and fold the extra plastic under the tree skirt. When the holidays are over, unfold the plastic and bring all four corners up to the treetop. Now it’s all wrapped up and won’t drop needles all over your house.
Bag your lights. Lower each strand into a numbered plastic bag as you take it down. Then you can avoid snarls and follow the numbers next year to replicate your display.
Get hooked. Stapling or nailing lights to the house can cut into wires, which poses a safety hazard. Use hangers instead. The lights will also be easier to hang and take down.
You know you put those decorations somewhere. Don’t waste money buying stuff you already have.
Three tips for smart storage:
Always use boxes with lids. It sounds simple, but how many times do you just throw your decorations into a box somebody sent you over the holidays?
There are boxes specifically made for storing ornaments. If you have trouble finding one, try raiding the liquor store for boxes used to ship bottles or glasses. Then use old newspapers to cushion fragile ornaments.
Got a fake tree? Use a tree storage bag. No, that dust does NOT look like snow. Protect your artificial tree in a bag to make sure it stays nice.
For more home improvement tips, visit http://www.onthehouse.com or call 1-800-737-2474, extension 59.