Be an energy owl, not a turkey, this Thanksgiving

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas-- -- You can almost smell it, can't you? A golden brown, perfectly roasted turkey with stuffing. Mashed potatoes with gravy. Zesty cranberry sauce and green bean casserole. Pumpkin pie. Pecan pie. Cherry pie
It's almost Thanksgiving, and that can mean a big jump in your electric usage. It can mean dishwasher load after dishwasher load of plates and an oven that's constantly on. It could mean your refrigerator door is often open as family members search for hidden goodies. More people in the house means your water heater may struggle to keep up with all the showers and laundry.

Yep, Turkey Day not only can be a strain on your beltline, it can be a strain on your electric bill. This holiday season, opt for these tips when you're cooking up your feast--you'll enjoy both a meal and little energy savings.

Oven Tips

· Turkey is traditionally roasted for hours. Because it's a long, slow cook, there's no need to preheat your oven, even when the recipe suggests it. This also holds true for a holiday ham. In fact, unless you're baking breads or pastries, you may not need to preheat the oven at all.

· Don't open the oven door to peek inside. Instead, use the oven light and check the cooking status through the oven window. Opening the oven door lowers the temperature by as much as 25 degrees, increasing cooking time.

· As long as your oven is on, cook several items at the same time. Just make sure you leave enough room between items for heat to circulate evenly.

· In an electric oven, you can turn the heat off several minutes before your food is fully cooked, as long as the door remains closed.

· If you use glass or ceramic pans, you can turn your oven temperature down by 25 degrees.

· If your oven has a self-cleaning feature, consider using it immediately after baking your meal to take advantage of the residual heat.

Stovetop Tips

· When cooking on top of your range, match the size of the pan to the burner. More heat will get to the pan, and less will be lost to surrounding air. A 6-inch pan on an 8-inch burner will waste more than 40 percent of the energy!
· Clean burners and reflectors provide better heating while saving energy.

Other Ways To Cook

· Fast and efficient microwaves use less energy than ovens, plus they don't heat up your kitchen.

· Slow cookers are perfect for busy families and can cook up a whole meal for about 17 cents worth of electricity.

· If you're baking or broiling small items, a toaster oven--a fraction of the size of a traditional range--is the ideal choice.

· Electric skillets can do everything a skillet on the stove can do, plus they can double as serving dishes.

· Be adventurous: Many Texans live where the climate is mild enough to cook outdoors. Roast your turkey outside on the charcoal grill. If you haven't tried a deep-fried turkey yet, you're in for a treat. Just make sure you mind Tom Green County's burn ban status.

Refrigerator Tips

· Most refrigerators and freezers get a real workout at Thanksgiving. If you've already invested in Energy Star- rated versions, good for you, but they still remain one of the largest energy consumers in your house.

· Keep the doors closed as much as possible. However, leaving the door open as long as you need is better than opening and closing it several times in a row.

· It's easy to keep your fridge and freezer full at Thanksgiving. It's also more energy efficient. The mass amount of cold items inside will help your fridge recover each time the door is opened and shut. However, don't cram it so full that the cold air can't circulate.

Dishwasher Tips

· One simple and fun way to save energy at holiday time is to gather everyone in the kitchen and wash and dry dishes by hand. Don't keep the hot water flowing at a steady stream: You'll waste more energy than you'll save.

· Always opt for a full load of dishes. If you must rinse your dishes before loading them in the washer, use cold water so your water heater doesn't have to work as hard.