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10 Easy Ways to Save Energy this Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is often a time for family and friends to gather around a packed dinner table and enjoy a great meal, laugh, reminisce and probably eat way too much. While a lot of fun, a Thanksgiving feast can take you hours to cook in ovens and on stovetops and that means you’ll be using a lot of energy. However, you may not have to use as much energy as you think. Here are 10 easy things you can do to save energy and cut energy costs this Thanksgiving.

1. Make sure your refrigerator seals well

You’re probably going to be opening and closing your refrigerator a lot this Thanksgiving as you and guests grab food and drinks. To help save energy, make sure your refrigerator maintains a good seal when it’s closed. Before guests arrive, check your door gaskets to make sure they seal tightly. Place a dollar bill against the frame of the refrigerator and close the door. If you’re able to pull the dollar bill out with a gentle tug or the bill comes out on its own, you need to adjust your door or replace the door gaskets. For more information, check your refrigerator’s owners manual or visit the manufacturer’s website.

2. Set your home’s thermostat appropriately

If you’re having a large group of people over, make sure to adjust the thermostat before guests arrive. If it’s cold outside, lower the thermostat a degree or two. The body heat from guests, as well as the heat from all that cooking, will raise your home’s temperature without you having to run your furnace.

3. Bring temperatures up quickly when cooking

To save energy when cooking liquids like sauces and gravy, you should bring temperatures up as quickly as possible. Consider cooking on high heat until liquids start to boil and then reducing the heat to a simmer until your food is fully cooked.

4. Use a timer to preheat your oven

Many ovens today beep or buzz or otherwise automatically notify you when they’re preheated. If your oven doesn’t, make sure to set a timer so you don’t use more energy than you need to. It usually only takes about five to eight minutes to preheat an oven. And remember, you don’t need to preheat your oven if you’re broiling or roasting foods.

5. Use an electric oven more efficiently by cooking more at once

You’re probably going to be using your electric oven a lot this Thanksgiving. To save as much energy as possible, cook as many foods as you can at one time. As long as the temperature you need to cook the various foods at varies by no more than 25 degrees, you’ll be fine. Make sure you have multiple timers that you can set for each food item so you don’t undercook or overcook anything.

6. Cook with a microwave whenever possible

Since microwave ovens use less than half as much energy as regular ovens and cook for a shorter period of time, you should consider using your microwave as often as possible this Thanksgiving. An item that needs to cook an hour at 350 degrees in a regular oven will take only 15 minutes at the high setting in a microwave. While it’s true that some foods will turn out better if cooked in a regular oven, for other foods it may not make a difference. And microwave ovens make heating leftovers much more quick and easy than regular ovens.

7. Cook more efficiently by using lids

When cooking with pots and pans, make sure to use lids whenever possible to retain heat. Doing so will allow you to save energy by cooking on lower heat settings over shorter cooking times.

8. Allow foods to cool before refrigerating

Although you may have heard that allowing hot foods to cool before placing them in the refrigerator for storage helps maintain the freshness of the food, the real reason for the advice is to lighten the cooling load on your refrigerator and save energy.

9. Avoid storing leftovers in a refrigerator in the garage

While convenient, storing leftovers in a second refrigerator in your garage is a big-time energy waster. During the winter months, frozen foods may actually melt if the temperature sensor in the refrigerator fails to activate the compressor because the temperature in your garage is lower than 32 degrees. And, if you operate your garage refrigerator year-round, the refrigerator has to work extra hard during the summer months to keep food cold, as temperatures in your garage might easily exceed 100 degrees. If you want to use a second refrigerator for storage, consider placing it in your basement or other insulated area of the home to save energy.

10. Schedule your oven’s self-clean feature

When all of your Thanksgiving cooking is done, make sure to use your oven’s self-cleaning feature only if you need some major cleaning, as the feature uses a lot of energy. If you decide to use the self-clean feature, do so while the oven is still hot or wait until late evening when electricity use is lowest.

Have some tips of your own? Let us know how you manage to save energy at Thanksgiving.


10 Simple Tips for an Energy-Efficient Thanksgiving,” Edison Electric Institute, Nov. 23, 2010.

11/24/2011 1:12:00 PM