It's Vacation Time

Image: Family going on vacationAbsence Makes the Energy Bills Lower—or does it? 

Have you ever gone on vacation, or been away from home for any extended period, and then been surprised that your energy bill was nearly the same as if you had never left? If so, you are not alone—many people have found out that a vacant house can use nearly as much energy as it can when everybody's home. The question is, WHY? Here are some tips to help you save on energy costs the next time you are away.

Staying out of Hot Water 

Probably one of the biggest culprits in the vacation energy-user caper is your water heater. Sitting home alone, a water heater can turn on up to five times a day, just to maintain its current temperature setting! Turning down the setting as low as possible is a great way to reduce this "standby" heat loss while you are away.

To turn off your electric water heater just switch it off from the circuit breaker box. You could choose instead to turn the temperature control to the lowest possible setting, to cut your energy use by more than 25 kilowatt-hours (kWh) a month.

If your kitchen tap is equipped to provide "instant" hot water, keep in mind that the added convenience probably also adds a steady 20 watts to your electricity use. Disconnecting the small hot water reservoir under the sink before going away on vacation, can save upwards to 20 kWh a month.

Photo: RefridgeratorBrrrrrr… Here is a Chilling Fact! 

Another big home energy guzzler, refrigerators vary in size and energy efficiency, using anywhere from 50 to 150 kWh each month---whether or not anybody's home! The warmer your kitchen, the more electricity your refrigerator will use—in fact, it can really crank up the kWh use in the summer. If your home has a second refrigerator or freezer, remember that it is using its share of electricity, too.

However, do not just unplug your refrigerator before a vacation—it does not take long for mold or mildew to start forming, even if the refrigerator is empty. As long as there is food in it, keep your refrigerator set at normal temperatures.

Depending on how long you will be away, consider completely emptying the refrigerator and setting the temperature control on the lowest setting. This will cut as much as 40 percent of your refrigerator's electricity use. Of course, be sure to properly store or dispose of any food you remove. You might also consider, opening the door, and securing it in position so that it will not close, and either unplug it or switch it off at the circuit breaker box.

Let there be Lights 

Of course, it is a good idea to keep some home lights burning—and preferably set on a timer—when you are away for extended periods. The good news is that most lighting uses less electricity than many other appliances, and that efficient lighting and controls can really add to your energy savings.

Using compact fluorescent bulbs indoors, for example, saves up to 60 percent in lighting energy use—and they do last longer than incandescent bulbs. If you have outdoor security lighting—which can use as much as 30 kWh a month per floodlamp—connecting it to a timer, photocell control or motion sensor can reduce its energy use by as much as 80 percent!

What about the Waterbed? 

A waterbed in your home is so quiet, you may never think about all the electricity it uses----about 100 kWh a month for a typical queen sized bed. Here are your "slim" options:

  • Pull the plug whenever you leave for a few days—and wait hours when you get home, to get it back to normal temperature or:
  • Lower the temperature setting 10 degrees or so and cover it with a couple of extra quilts or comforters for insulation.

(A Reminder: Please be sure your electric blankets are unplugged while on vacation.) 

Image: Electronic DevicesSome Devices Still Draw Energy 

When it comes to saving energy—some of the little things really count! "Instant-on" televisions, for example, can use 5 to 40 watts when not in use. Unplugging the set is the only way to really turn it off! Cable television converter boxes should also be unplugged, as they use as much as 30 watts of electricity when not in use.

Those little "black transformer boxes"—attached to various equipment such as battery chargers, cordless phones, draw anywhere from 1 to 5 watts of electricity, even when the appliance is off.

A Temperature Question 

Some energy use is simply necessary to protect your home and belongings—it is not always a matter of pulling the plug on electrically operated appliances while you are away.

In winter, keep the furnace on (and the thermostat generally set no lower than 55 degrees) to keep the pipes from bursting in cold temperatures. Opening any cabinet doors under the sinks, to expose pipes to the warmer air, helps.

If you use a pellet or wood stove, remember that a winter getaway will leave your stove cold—which means your furnace will use more energy than you are used to while you are away. Also, keep in mind that electricity runs the blower and fan on wood stoves.

As part of your vacation plan, make a half-hour "treasure hunt" of all miscellaneous energy users your home can do without while you are away. Keep in mind the ones that will need to be reset on your return.

If you have further questions or concerns, please call us at (541) 676-9146.