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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Save on Heating and Electricity Bills When You Leave Town for the Holidays

LAS CRUCES -- Before leaving town for your holiday vacation, take time to close a few curtains and unplug some appliances to save on your heating and electricity bills, said a New Mexico State University energy specialist.

"There are a number of things you can do to help cut back on energy use while you're gone," said JoAnn Emmel, with NMSU's Cooperative Extension Service. "But remember, some appliances like refrigerators need to stay on, so don't expect zero heating or operating bills."

Emmel suggests a few simple things to do before heading out of town that will cut down on the bills:

*Reduce the heat in your home. By turning the thermostat as low as possible without causing freezing problems -- probably 50 or 55 degrees -- you'll save money on your heating bill. If you have pipes underneath sinks on outside walls, keep those sinktrap doors open to let in a little extra heat and prevent freezing.

*Turn the hot water heater off. Since you won't need hot water while you're gone, turn electric heaters off. If you have a gas heater, just leave the pilot light on.

*Unplug any unnecessary appliances. Some appliances draw electricity even when you're not using them. For example, many televisions have an instant-on setting, so they're ready to come on as soon as you push the button. This uses electricity. One drawback to this tip: Some appliances have clocks that you'll have to reset upon returning from vacation.

*Use security lights. Instead of keeping lights on the entire time you're gone, use lights that have a timer or photosensor. This way the lights will come on when you want them to for security reasons, but they won't burn the entire time you're away.

*Close the dampers and keep all doors closed on your fireplace or woodburning stove. Lots of heat can be lost up the flue.

*Close your window curtains, blinds, or shades, so the heat stays in your house. If you want to leave a few window treatments open to make it look like you're home, open the ones on the south side to take advantage of solar heat during the day.

Emmel also has some energy-saving suggestions for people staying home for the holidays. "Many of us like to have lots of lights on our tree or home during the holidays," she said. "But by cutting back on a few lights, you can save a little bit on your electric bill."

Also, visiting friends and relatives produce extra heat in your home, so you can turn down the thermostat a little bit to compensate, Emmel said.

"When you have a house full of company, store coffee and other hot drinks in thermoses, so the coffee pot isn't turned on all day." When baking for the holidays, she suggests taking a day to do all your cookies and breads at once. "This way you won't be heating the oven a number of different times."

Emmel said people can keep energy saving in mind even when selecting gifts. "Consider giving sweaters, water-saving showerheads and lap blankets that help people save on utilities in their homes."