The holiday season means both your kitchen and your energy bill are about to go into hyper-drive. But there are some easy practices you can begin now to help lower your energy usage throughout the preparations and festivities.

Get lower utility bills with efficiencies in the kitchenFirst, when you’re using gas appliances, watch the flame: if it’s yellow the burner is dirty and wasting gas, and some minor appliance maintenance is called for. Over at the sink, give attention to your faucet. If it’s an older model, replacing it with a Water Sense-certified faucet will mean about 30 percent less water usage for day-to-day tasks, and a healthy reduction in your water bill. If you do the most cleaning with your dishwasher, only run it when it’s full for more efficient operation and lower water use. Newer dishwashers with powerful cleaning action also save you the step of pre-rinsing or washing dishes; just scrape off excess food before loading dishes into the dishwasher.

Your refrigerator is an everyday necessity and works overtime during the holidays, but that doesn’t mean you have to pay a lot of energy dollars to keep it chilled. First, improve fridge efficiency by ensuring it isn’t too cold. A setting between 37 and 40 degrees is best. Also make sure that cold air isn’t escaping due to a poorly sealed door. The best way to test for this problem is to insert a dollar bill in the door: if it slips out easily when the door is closed, the gasket isn’t doing its job and needs to be replaced. Finally, be smart about food storage, covering food to prevent the release of moisture that makes the compressor work harder. And if you find that you usually have much more fridge space than you need, consider downsizing. A nearly empty refrigerator uses more energy than a full one, since there aren’t enough foods and liquids to collect and hold the cold.

Get more enjoyment out of the coming holidays and fewer surprises in your utility bills with these energy-saving kitchen routines. All of these tips are presented by Lutron, makers of the Maestro Occupancy Sensing Switch, perfect for laundry rooms.  Lights go on hands free when you enter.  For more fall energy saving ideas, visit our Green Home, Saving Energy section and remember to choose Lutron.