07/02/14 : Recel Lazarte

Red, White, and Efficient: How to Save Energy on the Fourth of July

Keep your celebrations energy efficient during the Fourth of July.

July Fourth is often a time reserved for backyard barbeques, fireworks and, of course, a celebration of American independence. But while you prepare for this holiday weekend, don’t neglect your energy-saving conscience. Regardless of whether or not you’re from the U.S., by incorporating efficient practices into your weekend festivities you can contribute to an improved economy, environment and maybe even save some of that hard-earned cash.

Food

In my opinion, the food is one of the best parts of a Fourth of July celebration. When it’s time to create your menu, look into local options. By investing in locally sourced fruits, vegetables and meats the benefit is three-fold: you’ll save money on your grocery bill; benefit local merchants, which will improve your local economy; and you’ll avoid the energy and environmental costs associated with transporting food. Shop at your closest farmer’s market for fresh food options that require less energy to get to your plate. 

When you’re feeding hungry guests, consider serving food cold. Serving items like sandwiches at a cool temperature eliminates the need for a microwave or oven to heat up food, you'll see the benefit on your electricity bill. Besides, if your festivities are taking place outside your guests might appreciate a cooler menu option over a hot meal.  

For those of you who can’t go without your barbeque, make an energy-friendly change and use a gas grill instead of a charcoal grill. According to the Environmental Impact Assessment Review, liquid propane gas grills have a carbon foot print that is three times less than the footprint of charcoal grilling. Grilling is also a better alternative to using your oven if you’re trying to keep your electricity bill down in the hot summer months, making a gas grill a win-win for the environment and for your bills at the end of the month.

Home Improvements

If you’re planning to light up your backyard for the festivities, choose energy-efficient outdoor LED flood lights to keep your party illuminated without all the wasted energy. Not only are these lights bright and a great aesthetic touch to your party, each bulb also provides $173 in energy savings over its lifetime.

A valuable device that can complement your outdoor light fixtures is a motion sensor, which will save energy by automatically switching off the lights when no one is around. If you decide to move your festivities indoors, reevaluate your current lighting situation. Consider placing light fixtures only in the areas where you really need them. By strategically distributing light fixtures, rather than using overhead lighting, you can achieve a mood lighting effect as well as save a significant amount of electricity. Another inexpensive option is to install dimmer controls — these help reduce energy consumption by lowering wattage and output, and also lengthen the lives of most light bulbs.

Staying Cool

From an energy conscious perspective, hosting a party outside is the best option for celebrating July Fourth. By doing this, you won’t have to keep your air conditioning running and your guests can enjoy the benefits of a cool breeze.

If you’re aiming for an indoor bash try keeping the temperature in your home around 78 to 80 degrees. For every degree below 78F, electricity usage increases by 3%. Yet another alternative is to invest in a programmable thermostat to reduce your energy consumption and save as much as $180 annually.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heating and cooling accounts for 56% of energy use in the average American household, making it the largest energy expense for homes. Switch to ceiling fans with the ENERGY STAR label to keep your living spaces cool; ceiling fans are 50% more efficient than regular fans and result in annual savings of $15 on utility bills. Meanwhile, consider using your ceiling fan to cool off; the combination of raising your thermostat by two degrees and opting for the breeze from your ceiling fan can decrease cooling costs by 14%.

Traveling

If you’re traveling far for the holiday, public transportation is the most energy-efficient way to go. Rail travel by a service like Amtrak is almost 20% more efficient than flying and 30% more efficient than traveling by car. Fuel efficiency doesn’t stop there — once you reach your destination, try taking a bicycle out for a spin, or simply walk to go sightseeing. In terms of accommodations, consider staying at hotels that have the EPA’s ENERGY STAR label. These hotels use 35% less energy and emit 35% less greenhouse gas emissions compared to those without the label.

Take control of your energy independence this Fourth of July. After all, it’s not what your country can do for you; it’s what you can do — to save energy —  for your country.