This is a busy time of year for travel and many of us will be packing up and heading out to see loved ones or even get away on a vacation. Regardless of where you’re going, when you’re packing up and getting ready to go, don’t forget to also prepare your house for your absence — and we don’t just mean asking the neighbor to pick up the mail.
Going out of town for a few days, or longer, is actually a great opportunity to save electricity at home while you’re traveling. Below are a few of our favorite energy-saving strategies to conserve energy while you and your family are out of town.
Adjust the Water Heater
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, water heaters are among the most energy-hungry appliances in the home, accounting for up to 20% of your total electricity bill. Most water heaters are set to 140 degrees, which is higher than necessary and could even create a scalding risk. You can save money when you’re gone by turning down the water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also keep saving money when you return by leaving it there! Not to mention that it’s probably safer anyway.
Adjust the Thermostat
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 53% of the average family’s energy expenditures are for heating and cooling costs. So an easy way to save money when you’re gone is to turn down the thermostat.
During the warmer months, raise it five degrees above its typical setting to minimize unnecessary running of the air conditioner. You can set it down as low as 60 degrees during the cooler months. Resist the urge to turn it off completely, especially if there’s any possibility of a freeze.
Or, better yet, get a programmable thermostat. They’ll save you 10% yearly on heating and cooling costs, and you can turn it to the vacation setting before you leave to make the temperature adjustments automatically.
(And just a friendly reminder — has it been a while since you’ve changed your furnace filter? If so, go ahead and take care of that before you leave, too, and give your HVAC system a break. Changing the filters as recommended can improve your system efficiency by 15%.)
Unplug the Electronics and Appliances
Many electronics and appliances use electricity even when you’re away. This silent draw, also known as vampire electricity, happens due to standby mode power, and it adds up. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average family spends up to $200 annually in vampire electricity costs. Yikes! Wouldn’t you instead spend that money on fun stuff like a vacation? Go around the house and unplug your devices and appliances before you leave — TVs, routers, modems, computers, the washer and dryer, and anything with a red standby light. With power strips, you can also cut the power to multiple devices at once.
Turn Off the Lights
Hopefully, you’ve switched from old incandescent bulbs to new, energy-efficient LED light bulbs. But, even still, don’t leave home without shutting off the lights before you go. When it comes to leaving a light on at night, automatic timers are an easy way to turn it on at night and off again during the daylight hours. You can also use smart light bulbs. They’re super handy because they connect to wifi, and you can control them remotely with your phone. They’ll give you a lot more versatility in which lights you turn on and when, and turning a light on for eight hours a day is over 60% more efficient than leaving it on for a full 24 hours.
Close the Shades and Cover the Windows
You can go even further in giving your HVAC system a vacation by closing the shades in addition to adjusting the thermostat. Blocking the sunlight from entering keeps it from raising the temperature in your house by as much as 77%. Conversely, closing the blinds also adds a layer of insulation that helps to reduce heat loss during the colder months.
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And happy holidays, y’all!