Kirsty McLuckie: How to make savings with a low-carbon Christmas

Presents, entertaining and treating ourselves to special festive food and drink will all add up.

Picture: Pasko Maksim/Shutterstock
Picture: Pasko Maksim/Shutterstock

In an average year, we spend29 per cent more on the household in December than we do in any other month, but in 2021 we have rising energy prices to contend with too.

And, just as many of us were already thinking about how to save on energy, the festive season hits with the obligation to maintain a warm and welcoming atmosphere, with lights, extra cooking and the heating turned up to “Tropical”.

Some are taking radical steps to cut their carbon footprint. Research from GoCompare Energy suggests that one in ten householders are eschewing Christmas lights altogether this year, and a further quarter plan to use fewer festive lights than previously.

The average display, of 200 lights, apparently incurs energy costs of about £13 per household, however, this sum can be reduced by using LED lights instead.

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An even more budget-friendly option would be to use solar-panelled lights, which get their energy during the day – but, given the amount of daylight in Scotland in the depths of December, I doubt they are a workable solution.

Flashing lights use half the electricity – perhaps because they are only on for 50 per cent of the time – and it is a good idea to reduce the wattage of outdoor lights and put them on a timer.

As well as cutting costs, your neighbours might thank you if you are only delighting the street with a short display each evening.

Website MyJobQuote estimates that cooking accounts for 20 per cent of a household’s energy use during the year, but that this rises to 31 per cent on Christmas Day .

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Using the oven for five hours – the average time of cooking a full Christmas dinner – uses 4.35 kWh, which equates to almost a week’s worth of cooking in one day.

The advice is to try and cook everything at once, by consolidating dishes into one, and pre-boiling veg rather than roasting from raw.

If you can manage to persuade elderly relatives to cook sprouts until only al dente, that might make another considerable saving.

But by far the biggest rises in energy use over the festive season will go on keeping our homes warm.

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Even without taking Christmas and Hogmanay into consideration, Ofgem estimates that the average energy bill is about to rise by £139 a year, and most of this increase will go on heating.

It is a tricky thing to save money on, and could be dangerous if you have young children, vulnerable or elderly people in the house.

For the more robust, a pre-Christmas gift of festive jumpers for guests – vintage of course – might let you get away with turning the thermostat down a notch or two.

If your household, like ours, includes teenagers, there is also the option of only setting the heating system to come on at midday, as none of them are likely to be awake before then anyway.

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Meanwhile, for guests who have outstayed their welcome, reducing the temperature to “Baltic” can be a polite way of indicating that it is time to go…

- Kirsty McLuckie is property editor at The Scotsman

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