by Piper Terrett

Are you addicted to the bright lights of Christmas? I know I am. Out here in Essex, we love nothing better than a bit of bling. In my neighbourhood many people really go to town with the external Christmas lights on their homes. I’ve seen roofs adorned with everything from Father Christmas and his merry band of reindeer to Spiderman. As a teenager I used to drive around with my friend Andrea looking at them.

Hornchurch is one place where there are many festive lighting enthusiasts. And, until recently, a grandfather in Billericay, where I live, spent a fortune each year putting on a huge display for his grand kids. People used to come from miles around just to see it. I remember a taxi driver once who drove me home after a Christmas party. “We’re not pushing the boat out this year,” he told me. “It’ll just be the one giant inflatable Homer Simpson on our front lawn.”

So let’s face it – it’s been a tough year and we all want to kick back and enjoy ourselves for Christmas, and what’s the harm in a few festive lights? The problem is that the cost of electricity is about on the rise – and nobody wants an even bigger power bill come the New Year.

Luckily there are plenty of ways to save energy over the Christmas period.

Here are some ideas:

1. Lights out

Let your Christmas lights be an event every day: put them on in the evenings when you’re at home and turn them off at night before you go to bed. If you want to enjoy your festive sparkly tree, why not turn off the main house lights and watch it glitter in the darkness? I do that sometimes – I’m a sucker for that Christmassy feeling – and it’s very cosy.

If your old lights have broken, in that time-honoured Christmas-light tradition, try to make sure you replace them with LED lights. These are more and more common, and prices are coming down – and LED lights use 70% less energy than even the smallest fairy-light bulbs.

2. Watch the thermostat

Being at home more over the festive season means we’re using more fuel to keep warm. Wrap up in layers when you’re indoors and keep an eye on the heating thermostat so you don’t use more than you need to. (Bear in mind that you’ll probably generate some extra heat in the kitchen, cooking your Christmas meal; that’s one time when you can leave the door open to spread the heat around the house!) 

And as a journalist, I’m living proof of how easy it is get cold, if you spend too much time sitting down. Go for a walk to warm up and get the blood flowing. With all the snow around, you can make a snowman – as my neighbour Nina’s enterprising young daughter Elli demonstrates in the photo above (you might notice that the snowman has an impressive head of rosemary hair…).

 3. Snuggle up the old-fashioned way

Don’t forget old-fashioned energy conservation methods, such as using draught excluders, pulling curtains at dusk and shutting internal doors to conserve heat.

You could consider heating one room during the day to keep your energy bills down, but don’t put your health at risk, especially if you are elderly. Snuggle up in the evenings on your sofa under a duvet and take a hot water bottle to bed. You might feel silly but it’s a great antidote to a cold bed. Make sure that it’s not overfilled though, or you could end up a bit soggy!

4. Cook efficiently

Plan ahead with your cooking on Christmas Day and make the most of your fuel. Use the right-sized hob for your pan and put a lid on it to conserve the heat. Where possible, double up items in the oven – such as baking two cakes or pizzas at once – to get the most out of your energy. If you have an electric hob with rings that take time to heat up, anticipate which pans you’ll be using and maximise the residual heat. And, if you’re making a Christmas cup of tea (or – hopefully – somebody else is making it while you put your feet up), boil only  the water you need.

5. Turn it off

It’s easy to forget when you’re in the holiday mode, but inspect your house at night and turn off electrical items that don’t need to be on; don’t just leave everything on standby. That means that every day you just turn on the things you’re really using!

abnd last but not least: if you’re short of last-minute present ideas, why not get an energy monitor for Christmas so you can keep better track of your electricity use?

Happy energy saving, and – most importantly – have a very merry Christmas!

See you in the New Year.

All the best, Piper