Here’s a little secret: leaving for vacation gives you a great chance to reduce your home’s carbon footprint. Whether you’re heading out of town for a weekend leaf-peeping trip, doing a few simple things to get your house ready for your absence will save resources and energy… and, subsequently, money on your next utility bill. Who doesn’t love that?
Take a look at my vacation checklist. It takes less than an hour to take care of all of these items, and they will help to save resources, keep your home secure, and prevent damage.
- Clean out the fridge, but don’t empty it. Depending on how long you’re going to be gone, it’s a good idea to empty out all the perishables so you don’t come home to a stinky fridge. But make sure to leave plenty of stuff still in there, as a fairly full refrigerator will work more efficiently than an empty one. If you don’t have much in there, try filling the empty space with a few milk jugs or pitchers full of water. You can turn the thermostat of the fridge and freezer up a few degrees too, since it’ll stay colder without the doors being opened. However,if you’re going to be out of town for a few weeks or longer, it’s a good idea to completely empty and clean your refrigerator and unplug it. It uses about 5 percent of the household’s energy, so you will be surprised by how much impact this has.
- Unplug all unnecessary appliances and electronics. Before you lock up, walk around the house and pull all the plugs out of the wall, except for things that need to run while you’re gone. One especially to remember is the washer and dryer. Even if it means resetting a bunch of clocks, you’ll be grateful for the electricity savings, both in terms of a lower bill and a lower carbon footprint.
- Close the shades. As you’re roaming the house pulling plugs, also close drapes and blinds everywhere. This is a good move in an empty house for two reasons: First, it will deter thieves from casing your house for a burglary. Second, the closed drapes will help keep the temperature moderate in both summer and winter.
- Turn down the thermostat to 50 degrees. This is the temperature that experts recommend so that very little energy is used, but the house stays warm enough to prevent freezing and burst pipes. It’ll be chilly when you return, but at least you won’t be wasting energy heating an empty house.
- Put lights on a timer. As with closed drapes, lights on in the house are a good burglary deterrent. Putting them on a timer will not only give the impression that someone is home to be switching them on and off, but will also save energy over leaving a lamp burning the whole time you’re gone.
- Adjust the water heater. Because the water heater accounts for nearly 20 percent of a home’s energy usage, it’s smart to adjust your heater’s temperature while you’re gone. Many gas heaters have a “vacation” or “pilot” setting which puts the heater in a standby mode in which it does not actively heat water. If your water heater does not have this, simply turn down the thermostat to the lowest setting. When you return, you’ll need to wait a few hours after you turn the heater back up to get hot water.
U.S. Department of Energy