by Debra Wright Glaring television, spending long hours surfing the Internet, playing video games the whole day, these are just a few daily activities that can tremendously increase your energy bill during the winter months. Then, imagine the additional strain on your electric bill this time of year with Christmas lights, holiday gatherings, and the cold weather. With the down economy and the holidays, you may be required to be more frugal than usual. If this is the case, the following energy-saving tips will enable you to continue with your activities, save money, and at the same time be friendly to the environment. Keep lights OFF whenever possible Unless your house is designed to block light or you\u2019re living in a naturally gloomy area, keep the lights off during daytime. Unblock windows to let natural light in or install a skylight. Even at night, turn off lights in unused areas except when those areas require good lighting for security purposes. It\u2019s best to utilise energy-efficient lighting solutions in these areas, or if possible, in all areas. Also, remind other members of the household to always turn the lights off when not in use. Prefer appliances with power-savers and environment-friendly features I\u2019m sure you\u2019re familiar with power-saving features as many computers and gadgets have incorporated these in their designs. For a certain amount of time, if a working computer doesn\u2019t experience any activity, it will automatically \u201csleep\u201d and switch to a power-saving mode. In many appliances nowadays, power-saving features are included. If you\u2019re fond of leaving the television on as you unconsciously drift off to sleep, make sure you set the sleep timer on first; and do the same with your other appliances in times when you\u2019re not using them fully (refrigerators, air conditioners, fans, etc.). Use your appliances wisely (only when you need them) and do things manually as much as possible If you have time to do the laundry, wash your dishes or make your own coffee manually, then spend lesser time with your washing machines, dishwashers and coffeemakers. If you\u2019re living in a sunny area, try installing shades such as blinds, shutters or awnings so you can save on air-conditioning expenses. Plant trees if possible, or paint your home with dark colours if you\u2019re living in a cold area or with light hues if you\u2019re in a warm region. Being a homebody means you are spending a lot of your time at home. Make that time more productive and energy-friendly by doing things manually as often as possible. If possible, use one device for multiple tasks You are watching TV, and at the same time, your PC and wireless connection are on as you wait for e-mail notifications and other important messages. Your gaming console is turned on as well in case you feel like using it again. That\u2019s a lot of energy being used. Why not stream your favourite show online so you can do away with the TV completely? Using your PC alone, you can monitor your notifications while watching a show or movie or while playing an online game. Pull the \u201cvampire\u201d plugs Switching electronics off won\u2019t be enough. Most, if not all electrical appliances continue to \u201csuck\u201d electricity as long as they\u2019re still plugged, even if they\u2019re turned off. So make sure you pull the electric plug of your office lamp or any other electrical appliance after turning it off, no matter how frequently you use it. According to statistics, these energy-suckers use up 5% of the total electricity consumed in the United States alone, and this amounts to over 3 billion dollars spent per year. Just think of how much you can save per year just by pulling that plug! Go for renewable energy solutions Many residential owners are switching to renewable energy. Aside from saving up on electrical power expenses, they are able to conserve a considerable amount of energy as well. Companies that offer quality solar panels installation can help you in utilising solar power for your household energy needs. Renewable energy solutions are getting more popular nowadays as they not only help conserve energy and costs today, but conserve energy for future generations.