Getting ready for a summer vacation requires more than packing a bag — homes need to be prepared for an extended vacancy, otherwise you could be wasting energy. Heating and cooling a house accounts for about 43 percent of the average household’s utility bill. There’s no need to cool a home when it’ll be sitting empty. So adjust your thermostat to a higher setting or leave the air conditioning off entirely. You may not want your home to get too hot while you’re away, but raising the cooling temperature above your typical preference will help keep the power bill down. Every degree the thermostat is adjusted transforms into 2 percent savings on the cooling portion of your electric bill in a 24-hour period.
Heating water is the second highest energy user in residential homes. So, turning off an electric water heater at the circuit-breaker panel or setting a natural gas water heater to “pilot” or “low” will produce some energy savings. Just be sure to turn the heater back on before you need it. It’ll take one to two hours to reheat. A household can save up to $10 a month by shutting off an electric water heater.
It’s smart to use lamps on timers to make your home look occupied while you’re away, just be sure they’re running LED light bulbs instead of incandescent or compact florescent bulbs.
If you are going to be gone for a month, you could save an average of $5 by unplugging the refrigerator. Don’t forget to empty and clean it and the freezer first. Keep the whole unit fresh for your return by placing a box of baking soda on the refrigerator shelf and propping open the door.
If shutting it down isn’t practical, you can leave it on and reduce some waste. First remove all perishable food and fill the refrigerator with gallon jugs of water or containers of your favorite drink. A full fridge reduces temperature fluctuations and saves energy.
If you have a large freezer that can’t be unplugged, it’s smart to have a neighbor check on the freezer to make sure the power is still on and that the compressors are working.
Some appliances always draw a small amount of power, even when they’re shut off. For safety and efficiency, unplug all of them — including the coffee pot and microwave oven before you leave home.
Electronics with LEDs and clocks are energy vampires. Unless they’re unplugged, many devices continue to use energy even when they’re off. Stereos, computers, TVs and other equipment also draw power even when they’re not in use. Unplugging them all is also a good safety measure.
For extended times away from home, it’s a good idea to let Clark Public Utilities and other service providers know if you’ll be gone for an extended period to make arrangements for bills you may not be home to receive.
Individually, those little actions may not seem like much, but collectively they can add up to significant savings. Even if you’re gone for just a week, that still accounts for 25 percent of your monthly bill.
Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98688.