Whether carving a turkey or decorating cookies, holiday gatherings tend to center around the kitchen. But if the counter tilework looks like it has fond memories of the ‘70s, you may not have time to do the major overhaul you’ve been dreaming of before mom and dad show up with the eggnog. But there are still a number of projects you can take care of now and others to save for later that’ll make your cooking space more energy efficient, comfortable and safe.

While homeowners may be considering a full kitchen or bath remodel, many homes on the Central Coast would benefit immediately from the following updates you can do yourself, or with help from a qualified local contractor.

Light Up Your Life. A crowded kitchen means those lights are going to be on – a lot. It could be time to upgrade to LED fixtures, which use 70 to 90 percent less energy than standard lightbulbs. For those still with fluorescent tube bulbs, you know how pricey these can be. LED bulbs, on the other hand, continue to become more affordable. If you have recessed lighting, consider getting LED retrofit kits that come with gaskets to seal those old can lights. Otherwise, you’re leaking your heated air into the attic.

It Came from Under the Sink. While most of us would like to forget about this nook, it deserves a long, hard look. You’ll often find holes around your plumbing, which act as an air escape when you’re trying to heat the house. And to help improve your air quality and overall safety, stop using this as a storage spot for household chemicals, such as ammonia and bug spray. Those fumes are leaking out into your kitchen and are better kept outside, where ventilation isn’t an issue.

All Good in the Hood. You’ll want your stovetop exhaust hood up and running properly for the holiday season cooking marathon. Unfortunately, people tend to skip using these if they’re too loud, which is often a sign the unit isn’t working efficiently. A properly functioning hood is going to get rid of carbon monoxide from your gas range, and if it’s at the correct height, it also protects from grease fires. Also, the exhaust ducts need to be properly sending these fumes outside – not just into the attic. Ducts often have some major gaps that need to be sealed. If your entire home smells when you’re cooking, this is a sign your ducts could use some work.

This would also be a good time to make sure the outdoor exhaust hatch is covered with a flap – also known as a damper – that only opens when your hood is in use. Otherwise, this is a permanent hole to lose heated or cooled air through.   

Whatever the occasion, we know your kitchen will soon be buzzing with the people you love. As you prepare your home for the coming season, make sure it’s a spot where you can safely and comfortably enjoy those pumpkin pies.