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Engineers’ Angle | Have a merry energy-saving Christmas – Pt. 1

Published:Thursday | December 6, 2018 | 12:00 AM
File A house in the Corporate Area decorated for Christmas.
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The all too familiar, yet much-anticipated Christmas season has traditionally marked a time for celebration and also marks the final days of the year.

For some, it is a time to reflect on the incarnation of the Christ, and for others, it is a time to have fun. Irrespective of how we greet the holiday, it is generally regarded as a time of sharing and spending time with friends and family.

In our feasting, travelling, and acts of worship, we are normally caught up in a nostalgic ambiance in which we relax many of the self-imposed restraints that guide our routines during most of the year.

One area in which many of us cast off restraint is in our use of energy. We have worked all year round to ensure that our monthly electricity bill is within reasonable expectation.

But it's Christmas, with so much family, so many friends, and God has been good to us. Now is not the time to be stingy. And so, our guard falls, and before you know it, the significant energy savings painstakingly achieved in earlier months become erased in a matter of days.

But really, must we all be little 'Grinches' if we are to make it through this season? Is there no way to remain energy-conscious amid our fun, relaxations and celebrations?

Be of good cheer. Be not dismayed. Here are a few simple and inexpensive, yet effective ways to continue to conserve energy throughout the holiday season without jeopardising the festive spirit.

Since these are general suggestions, you will need to carefully consider how each may suit your situation.

1. Use LED

decorative lights

It is no longer news that light-emitting diodes (LEDs) are the most efficient commercially available lighting technology. While most persons now use LEDs for normal space lighting, few of us are aware that they have also become well-established in the decorative lighting sector.

Up until recently, this space had been dominated by incandescent bulbs. Do you have these strings of lights tucked away in a box waiting for Christmas? It's now time to replace them with LEDs, which use about 70 per cent less energy than traditional lights, don't produce as much heat, and will last much longer.

Why not also consider reducing the amount of decorative lights you use? With a little creativity, you can create interesting, innovative and eye-catching lighting designs with minimum decorative lights.

2. Consider fibre

optic decorations

Fibre-optic decorations come in many different designs and have become another popular option for Christmas. By using a single light source, such as an LED bulb, light is emitted through many different fibres. The opportunities for creativity are endless. Imagine a fibre-optic Christmas tree.

3. Turn off those lights

Obviously, there is no need to have your decorative lights on during the daytime in your house. But, do you even need to have them on all night? Why not turn them off when you are going to bed? And if you can afford it, consider investing in automatic light controls and timers. This way, control is still maintained, even if you forget or if you are away from home. By sensibly controlling the time of use of your decorative lights, you can avoid considerable electricity costs.

4. Turn off that

air conditioner

Unlike most other countries', Jamaica's weather is close to idyllic at Christmas time. Temperatures are cool, and to top it off, 'cool breeze a blow'. Why not make the most of the season? Switch off those air-conditioning (A/C) systems, open your windows, and, whenever your get the chance, move your activities outside.

If you must use an A/C system, then consider setting your temperature a few degrees higher. Whatever you do, look for ways to take advantage of the wonderful Christmas weather while reducing the energy used for A/C cooling.

5. Switch off

and plug out

Truth be told, this strategy has little to do with Christmastime. Regardless of the time of year, turning off and unplugging appliances, electronics, equipment, lights and other energy-consuming devices when they are not in use is one of the simplest, yet most effective strategies for achieving energy savings.

You may not realise that household electronics such as computers, televisions, printers and phone chargers still consume small amounts of power when turned off.

If you keep these energy-savings tips in mind, you can be free from anxiety while engaged in your holiday celebrations. We are confident that when the new year rolls around and you receive that 'light bill', you'll have one more reason to celebrate.

By no means is this an exhaustive list of tips. If you have appreciated this read, then look out next week for Part 2.

n Kirkland Rowe is a senior lecturer in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Technology, Jamaica and a certified energy manager. Send questions and comments to or You may also leave your comments for the JIE's Technical Committee at our Facebook page: Jamaica Institution of Engineers - JIE.