Watt's Happening

8 Thanksgiving Energy Tips You Can Be Grateful For

What are you most thankful for this holiday season? Your health, your loved ones, your career…

But what about a lower energy bill?

Thanksgiving is around the corner, and we know you’ve been fasting in anticipation for that juicy platter of turkey, those bowls of steaming sides and sweet bites of your favorite pies. A full home and even fuller belly make for a successful Thanksgiving, but one side you may want to add to the table this year is a plate full of energy savings.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the Thanksgiving holiday contributes to an annual spike in energy use. This is due to a few factors, including colder weather up north and more electricity being used from lights staying on and appliances operating on overdrive.

Houseguests, large meals and holiday tunes all contribute to higher energy costs. This isn’t to say you should kiss your big turkey plans goodbye, close off the kitchen and order takeout this Thanksgiving. Instead, entertain the sustainable way this year! There are plenty of simple, actionable changes you can make to your holiday routine that can help ensure your energy bill looks as good as your Thanksgiving dinner.

So put on your best bib, because the Watt’s Team is sharing eight energy-saving tips you can gobble up this Thanksgiving!

1. Set the stage for energy savings.

Hosting this year’s Thanksgiving celebrations? It can be stressful, especially when you have an energy bill to consider. Make the switch to more energy-efficient lighting options such as LEDs, which use 85% less energy than incandescent bulbs and can save you about $70 in energy costs over the life of the bulb.

On Turkey Day, get in the habit of turning off every light in unused rooms and close them off. In addition, turn off your ceiling fan when you leave the room. A fan that runs all the time costs up to $7 a month.

Finally, if you expect a large group of people for dinner, lower the thermostat a degree or two a few hours before the guests arrive. Otherwise, since people generate heat, the space may become overheated and your air conditioning system will have to work double to cool your house down.

2. Gather ingredients efficiently.

The first step in preparing that unforgettable Thanksgiving feast is grabbing everything you need to make it happen. Check the refrigerator and freezer doors to make sure they seal tightly. This will keep the cold air in and the warm air out. A good way to test this is by closing the refrigerator door on a dollar bill. If you can slip the bill out easily or if it falls out on its own, the door may need adjusting or the gasket may need replacing.

When preparing to cook, try to gather all the necessary ingredients from refrigerators and freezers in one or two trips. The more you open and close the doors of these appliances, the more cold air can escape, forcing them to work harder — and use more energy — to keep the house cool.

3. A bigger bird isn’t always better.

It sounds like some adage your grandfather once said, but speaking in literal terms, don’t buy a turkey larger than what you will need for your guests.

Fact: A smaller turkey takes less time to cook. Cooking your stuffing and dressing separately also reduces the turkey’s cooking time in the oven.

We know a gargantuan platter of meat at the dinner table is a sight for sore eyes to the empty stomach, but an actual idiom reminds us “(one's) eyes are bigger than (one's) stomach.” So think twice when picking out your turkey!

4. Microwaves can be your friend.

When getting your Thanksgiving meal prep on, try cooking with a microwave or toaster oven when you can. They use half the power of a regular oven and add less heat to your kitchen. These appliances can also help reduce your cooking time!

There are also plenty of easy no-bake recipes you may want to incorporate into your Thanksgiving table.

5. Put a lid on it.

When cooking on a stovetop, we suggest using a “lids-on” approach. Tightly fitted lids on pots and pans help keep heat in, enabling you to lower the temperature settings of your stovetop and shorten the cooking times for less energy spending. This also keeps the heat out of your kitchen, which could trigger your A/C to work harder.

If boiling liquids, start by using the highest temperature settings to reach the boiling point. Then, lower the heat control setting and allow the food to simmer until fully cooked. Bon appétit!

6. Be smart with your oven use.

Now it’s time to preheat the oven for that turkey and other Thanksgiving classics. Be sure to time the preheat period carefully. Five to eight minutes should be enough time. If broiling or roasting, you can skip preheating completely.

When roasting or baking, use the oven window to avoid making frequent progress checks that involve opening the oven door. Every time the door is opened, a considerable portion of the oven’s heat escapes, which slows the progress of the cooking and makes your kitchen warmer.

It’s always best to be efficient with your cooking when you can. For sides, foods with different temperatures can often be cooked at the same time at one temperature, so try and coordinate a middle ground for multiple foods in the oven at one time. You may need to adjust cooking time to accommodate.

By now, your home should smell like the inside of a cornucopia. When all that cooking is done, don’t use your oven’s self-cleaning cycle unless a major cleaning job is needed. Wipe up minor spills and splatters with a damp, sanitized cloth. If you decide you need to use the oven’s self-cleaning feature, try to start the cycle right after cooking, while the oven is still hot.

7. Don’t forget the leftovers.

Make no mistake, there will be a lot of them! One of the best parts about Thanksgiving is getting to experience a second or third round of that mouthwatering meal in the days afterward. The challenge is hot foods in a fridge force it to work harder — and use more energy — to maintain temperature. Try allowing your piping leftover containers to cool before placing them in the refrigerator. If they’re really hot, you can even place them on a tray on top of ice to cool them faster.

After the feast, many people put the leftovers in a second refrigerator in their garage. But a second refrigerator means double the energy use and double the spending! If it’s sitting in your Florida garage, the refrigerator will have to work extra hard against the heat and humidity to keep the food cold.

But we get it, you want those leftovers! If you have a second refrigerator, consider placing it in the basement or other insulated area of your home where the heat won’t be as much of a factor.

8. Give yourself a break with the dishes. 

You’ve just devoured your plate of food and are at risk of slipping into a food coma. Cleaning a tall stack of dirty plates seems daunting on a normal day, but under these dire circumstances it feels downright impossible. The good news is, it’s better to use a little energy in this case!

With an ENERGY STAR-certified dishwasher, it’s better for the environment and your energy bill to “put ‘em in the machine,” because handwashing uses more energy and water. So, rest easy knowing you can load it, kick your feet up, take a quick nap and dream about leftover turkey sandwiches.

If you’re thankful for these energy saving tips, find other savings-friendly advice at FPL.com/WattsHappening.