Planning a weekend getaway to the beach or a retreat to the mountains? Regardless of where or why you are going, there’s one thing you have to keep in mind: your home’s energy use while you’re away. Many travelers don’t know how to make their home more energy efficient while they’re gone, meaning they return home from their relaxing vacation only to find a pile of expensive energy bills piled up in the mailbox. Don’t let this kill your post-vacation bliss! Cut down on the energy your home is using while you’re not there with these tips.
Change the thermostat temperature
Why waste energy on heating or cooling your home when you won’t be there to enjoy it? If you have a programmable thermostat, adjust the settings before you go to ensure it won’t turn on while you’re away. For a summer trip, make sure you adjust the furnace to a low temperature and the air conditioner to a high temperature so both of them won’t turn on until you return home. You can even set your thermostat to click on right before you get back so you can come home to a cool house without having to pay for your air conditioner to be on the entire time.
Travelers often walk through their home one final time before they leave to make sure they didn’t forget anything or to double check that they turned the iron off. While you do this last look around, unplug any electronic devices or appliances that won’t need power while you’re away. A common misconception is if an appliance or device is turned off, it’s not using energy. But, many devices still consume energy as long as they’re plugged into an electrical outlet. To really stop the energy flow, you have to unplug it completely.
Obviously, you won’t be able to unplug every device because some will need power while you’re away. But things like the coffee maker, toaster, and desktop computer definitely will not, so make sure these are unplugged before you go.
Adjust your refrigerator’s temperature
Some travelers don’t mind unplugging their refrigerators before they go on a trip—especially if they will be gone for so long that no food will be fresh by the time they get back anyways. If this is the case, make sure you clean your refrigerator out before unplugging it to prevent bad smells from taking over your home. After you’re done cleaning out your refrigerator and freezer, prop the doors open and place a dish filled with baking soda in each section of the appliance. This will help fight bad smells and prevent mildew from building up while you’re gone.
If you’re only leaving for a few days, it’s not a good idea to unplug your refrigerator before you go so you can preserve your food. Though there is still a way for you to cut back on this appliance’s energy use without spoiling the food inside. Adjust the refrigerator temperature to 42 degrees Fahrenheit and the freezer to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a warmer temperature than what these appliances are usually set to, but not a big enough change to cause any damage to the food inside. This is a win-win situation for travelers, since they can cut back on energy while still coming home to a refrigerator full of food!
Turn the water heater off
You won’t be taking any relaxing baths or warm showers at your house while you’re on vacation, so why leave the hot water heater on? It may seem harmless, but hot water heaters can waste a lot of energy even when they’re not in use. These are called standby losses, and they will occur the entire time you’re on your vacation if you don’t take the necessary step of turning off your water heater.
If you have an electric water heater, turn it off right at the breaker. If you have a gas model, switch it to the pilot setting before you leave. This will help you prevent energy costs that occur through standby losses, so you can come home without having to worry about paying a bill for hot water that you didn’t even have the chance to enjoy.
Use programmable lights
Travelers often decide to leave their lights on when they go to scare off intruders and give the impression they’re home when they’re not. However, leaving lights on the entire time you’re on your trip is a big waste of energy. You do not have to choose between security and sustainability. Install programmable lights in your home instead of standard lights that you have to keep on at all times. Set the lights to power on when the sun is setting, which is when lights inside your home will be visible to those on the streets. This way, you’ll still enjoy the benefit of keeping your home safe without wasting as much energy doing so.
Close your curtains
During the summer, heat can make its way into your home through your windows, putting more pressure on your air conditioner to cool down your home. Before you leave for your trip, walk through the house and make sure all curtains and blinds are closed. Why does this matter if your air conditioner will be off while you’re gone? When you come home, you’ll most likely turn on the air conditioner as soon as possible. The hotter the inside of your home is, the more energy your air conditioner will have to use to cool it down. So, if you keep the inside of your home protected by closing the curtains and blinds while you’re gone, your air conditioner won’t have to do as much work to keep you comfortable when you return.
Change the pool filter’s schedule
Do you have a pool in your backyard? Before you leave for vacation, make sure you adjust the pool filter’s schedule. While you’re gone, there’s no reason for the pool filter to run as much as it does when you’re home. But you still have to keep your pool clean while you’re away, so don’t turn it off completely. Instead, adjust the schedule so it only cleans your pool for four to five hours per day. This is enough to keep everything clean without unnecessarily consuming energy. In fact, you may find that this shortened schedule will work even when you’re home, so you can cut back on the energy your pool consumes year-round.
Adding these items to your to-do list before you go on vacation is important. Not only does it help you save money on your utility bills, but it also helps the environment. So do yourself and your world a favor by making your home more energy efficient while you’re away!
[box]Uma Campbell is a green loving yoga instructor and freelance writer. She currently lives in Southern California where she enjoys writing about natural living, health, and home design.@Umajcampbell www.umajcampbell.wordpress.com.[/box]