7 Energy Efficiency Tips for Your Home While on Your Vacation
Vacations are a time when you can relax a bit, forget about the little stresses of life, and spend some quality time with your families. However, people are often in such a hurry to pack and get out of town, they forget to prepare their home so that their electricity usage goes down while they are away.
You might be thinking, "No one is home playing video games or running the air conditioner, so we'll automatically use less energy!" Well, just because your house is empty of people, that doesn't mean that the appliances and lights have stopped sucking electricity from the grid. Thankfully, homeowners can save a significant amount of money by practicing a few simple energy saving tips to keep their electricity usage down while on vacation.
1) Heating and Cooling
With everyone out of the home for a few days, there is no reason to keep the heater or central air running, unless pets will be left at the house. Even with a pet or two in the home, you shouldn't set the thermostat for 72 when there is no one there to enjoy it. Instead, during the hot summer months, the thermostat can either be set for 90 or turned off completely.
The winter is a little more tricky. The thermostat should be set around 50 degrees to keep appliances and pipes from freezing. The worst way to end a vacation is to come home to a flooded basement or frozen dishwasher.
For every degree a thermostat is raised during the summer, a homeowner will save 2-3 percent on his or her electricity bill. If a thermostat usually set for a steady temperature of 72 degrees is raised to 90, then, at a minimum, this will result in a 32% savings on the electric bill for that period of time. If the home has a programmable thermostat that can be adjusted by date, then it can be set to change the temperature the day of arrival, so the family will come home to a comfortable household.
The only caveat to this is in the case of pets. If your family is going on a vacation of several weeks, your animals should either be boarded or an arrangement should be made with a friend to care for the animals daily, including feeding, watering, and walking (if necessary). If the pets are left in the home, then the temperature should not be set so high or low that it will cause them unnecessary discomfort. Your veterinarian will be able to advise a homeowner what household temperature will keep the pets safe while conserving energy.
2) Water Heater
The water heater is one of those appliances that people don't think about on a regular basis. It sits in a out-of-the-way part of the house (usually the basement or attic) heating your water, and you only remember it when the water runs cold during a long shower. It's also easy to forget about when leaving on a vacation.
Before heading to the airport, shut off the circuit breaker to the water heater. If you have a gas heater, turn the gas valve off to be safe. Upon returning home, the hot water tap should be allowed to run before the power and gas are turned on to make sure the water tank isn't empty. It can damage the unit if the tank is heated without any water in it.
If you go on a winter vacation, you should leave the water heater on at the lowest possible (or "vacation" setting) to keep the water from freezing in the lines and tank.
3) Electronics and Appliances
Even with the home empty and the television and major appliances turned off, they are still using electricity. We call them "energy vampires." Before the family leaves, someone should walk around the home and unplug every unnecessary appliance and electronic. This doesn't just include the television, lamps, and entertainment center. Small electronics like electric razors, coffee pots, digital clocks, and cell phone chargers all drain energy when plugged in. Nothing needs to be moved, simply unplugged. This not only saves energy, but also eliminates a possible fire hazard if there would be a power surge while no one is home.
4) Automatic Lights
People don't want their houses to look unoccupied while on vacation, because it's easy for burglars to spot. Many times, the easiest thing to do is leave a light or two on inside to keep it lit during the evening hours. This could be a lamp in the living room or even a larger light that may provide light for the entire dining room. While this is a good safety idea, it's an unnecessary waste of energy with the invention of automatic light devices. These devices place the lights on a timer, so at a specific time of the day certain lights will turn on and off, as needed. It gives the illusion of being home and prevents wasted energy by keeping lights off during the day.
The automatic timers range from as little as $10 to $30 for an average unit. They can also be used to turn on a radio to add sound as a further deterrent to burglars.
If you don't have an automatic light timer, just ask a friend to visit the home every couple of days to turn on a light at night and turn it off during the day. This is an easy task, especially if they are already visiting to help with pets or plants.
5) Blinds and Curtains
Saving energy doesn't always require using or not using something electrical. Most windows in a home have either blinds or curtains. Usually, they are used to let light in or keep light out, but when on vacation, they can be a useful way to conserve heat energy.
Lower the blinds and close the curtains when leaving for vacation. This simple act will keep heat from coming in during the summer and letting heat out during the winter. If the furnace is on and set to a lower temperature, lowering the shades and closing the curtains helps to slow the rising or lowering of the temperature in the home.
The refrigerator is the electronic equivalent of a V-8 gas hog, sucking electricity like a chrome-covered high-performance engine. An extended vacation gives you the opportunity to get rid of the food in the fridge, clean it a bit, and unplug it. If the house is vacant for only a few days, it's not worth the trouble to unplug the device, as much of the food will still be good upon return, but extended stays are a different story.
Before leaving, the homeowner should unload the food and clean out the refrigerator thoroughly, leaving the doors open to air out. Also, placing a box of baking soda in the freezer and refrigerator will draw in the moisture and help prevent mold growth. Taking the refrigerator offline will save a significant amount of energy while nobody is home.
As an alternative to turning off the refrigerator, the refrigerator temperature can be set around 42 degrees and the freezer around 5 degrees. This is enough to keep everything cold and frozen, but still save energy over the vacation period. As a precaution, it is a good idea to clean out the refrigerator of any leftovers, raw vegetables, and other perishables, and keep only new foods that won't spoil while the house is empty.
7) Save Money and Stress on Vacation
Vacations can cost a significant amount of money for a family, even with all of the fun you'll have together. It's nice to know that, by practicing these tips and tricks, you can save money on electric bill by drastically decreasing your electricity while you're out of the house. When recovering from the cost of a vacation, every little bit helps. Bon voyage!
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