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12 ways to cook up a smaller energy bill

For many of us, the best holiday memories revolve around food.

The sweet aroma of gingerbread cookies in the oven, the savory scent of a roasting turkey — those smells can transport us back in time. It might be a childhood memory of baking with Grandma on a snowy winter day or more recent memories of laughing with favorite cousins around the holiday table. 

Odds are, you’re probably already making plans for your holiday baking or thinking about how you’ll season this year’s turkey. But as we prep for this season of holiday baking and cooking, it’s good to remember that cooking also means energy consumption.

Don’t worry, we aren’t suggesting you skip your holiday cooking or family gatherings. Instead, we came up with 12 easy tips to help you reduce your energy consumption and keep bills lower. Plus, you’ll be doing your part to protect the planet.

  1. Pick a day to do your holiday baking and bake several things at the same time when possible. And don’t forget to include Nicole’s yummy pumpkin cookies, featured on page 60 of our Service Guard cookbook. They are perfect for Thanksgiving!

    Go to recipe

  2. Use your oven window to check on baking goodies rather than opening the door. Opening the oven door lowers temperatures inside by as much as 25 degrees. That increases your cooking time and wastes energy.
  3. Microwave food whenever possible. Microwaves use 90% less energy than a conventional gas oven. And let’s face it, some foods can easily be prepared in the microwave.
  4. Set your refrigerator at 35 to 38 degrees to save energy, and don’t linger with the door open. An open refrigerator door means lost energy.
  5. Cover pots on the stove to speed heating.
  6. Use the correct sized pot on burners. A 6-inch pot on an 8-inch burner wastes 40% of the burner’s heat.
  7. If you have a gas range, keep the burners clean. That maximizes efficiency. 
  8. Unplug kitchen appliances like coffee makers and mixers when they aren’t in use. 
  9. Wait until you have a full load before you run your dishwasher. Plus, scrape dishes rather than running water to clear them.
  10. Make sure you have LED bulbs in your home. LED bulbs use 75% less electricity, which means a cost savings. 
  11. Turn your furnace down at night while everyone sleeps. Make sure to provide extra blankets for your holiday guests.
  12. This may not revolve around food, but it’s a sure sign that the holidays are here. Those beautiful lights decorating your home can use a lot of energy. Some things to think about – put lights on a timer to limit the number of hours they are lit, use LED bulbs and choose lower wattage bulbs.

While these tips will help you lower your energy usage, it’s also helpful to know just how your individual household is using energy. To better understand your specific energy usage, visit your Black Hills Energy online portal where you can see usage trends in your home or business. Don’t have an account yet? No problem. You can set up an account by clicking here. Once you know where your energy is going, you’ll be able to make other adjustments to decrease your energy consumption and lower your bills.

Unfortunately, we know that sometimes making these changes in your use still doesn’t lower your costs enough, especially with rising commodity prices and colder than average temperatures this year. When that happens, we want to support you through our energy assistance programs. Black Hills Energy offers a myriad of programs, including energy assistance, budget billing and payment plans. We can help find the right option for you. Now is also a great time to consider switching over to Black Hills Energy’s self-service options. You can sign up for paperless bills, notifications and alerts, online payments and more.

While energy usage is an important factor in the coming winter months, it’s also important we don’t overlook safety. When family gathers and chaos ensues, it’s easy to get forget some of the simple safety measures you utilize every day. But please don’t. The last thing you want is to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas in the emergency department.

  • Keep your walkways clear of ice and snow so Aunt Margaret can safety reach the front door with her famous holiday rum cake. Yum!
  • Make sure icicles aren’t hanging from the gutters. They may seem harmless, but a large icicle can cause injury.
  • Clear snow away from the outdoor vents on high-efficiency furnaces. The furnace won’t run safely and efficiently if the vent is blocked.
  • Create an emergency kit in case of power outage. Stock it with fresh batteries, power banks and car chargers, and a flashlight. It’s also a good idea to include some non-perishable food, water, first-aid supplies, baby items such as diapers and formula and extra prescription medicine.
  • When roads are icy, ask guests to text or call when they arrive back home. Be prepared for overnight guests if roads become too dangerous for travel.  
  • Be mindful of extremely cold temperatures. If it’s your job to clear the sidewalk, dress warmly and take breaks to come inside to warm up. If your young guests decide some fun in the snow is in order, make sure they are dressed appropriately.
  • Make sure you’ve had your furnace inspected before the holiday parties begin. You don’t want it to go out with a house full of guests. See if we offer furnace inspections in your area.  

With these energy savings tips and safety reminders, you can plan for a wonderful holiday season filled with family and good food. After all, the holidays should be a time for joy, not worry.

Happy holidays and happy cooking!

Black Hills Energy Blog

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