Set Your Home to Vacay Mode

Set your home to Vacay Mode
Before you leave for vacation, reduce unnecessary energy waste and unneeded wear and tear on your home’s equipment by planning ahead. Photo by Mark Gilliland, Pioneer Utility Resources.

Q: How can I lower my electric bill when I’m gone on vacation?

A: Just like you, the equipment in your home is hard at work getting through the daily grind. While you are off enjoying a new adventure or time away this summer, give your home’s equipment a vacation, too. Doing so can reduce unnecessary energy waste and unneeded wear and tear on your heating and cooling system, appliances, and more. Here’s how to set your home to vacay mode.

Your heating and cooling system keeps you comfortable. If you aren’t there, it doesn’t need to be quite so comfortable in your home. Setting the thermostat closer to the outdoor temperature can save energy and money. I don’t recommend completely turning off the heating or cooling system. In extreme weather, your heating and cooling system also helps protect your home from freezing pipes or damage from excessive heat.

Set your thermostat 5 to 10 degrees closer to the outdoor temperature when you aren’t home. You can also consider upgrading to a smart thermostat, which gives you control over the temperature from anywhere. Photo by Mark Gilliland, Pioneer Utility Resources.

As a rule, you can typically set your thermostat 5 to 10 degrees closer to the outdoor temperature when you aren’t home. Each home is different, and the weather varies depending on where you live. Consider the right temperature balance for your home.

Installing a smart thermostat gives you the ability to control your settings remotely from your smartphone. This allows you to adjust the temperature after you leave home and right before you return.

Most modern water heaters include a vacation mode. This setting drops the temperature to reduce wasted energy when you’re away. A storage water heater is like an insulated tea kettle, standing by and ready for you to have hot water whenever you need it. Give that water heater a vacation, too. Changing the setting to vacation mode keeps it on at a lower setting, saving energy. Leave yourself a note with a reminder to turn it back on when you get home, so you don’t wind up with a disappointing shower before the first day back at work.

Closing the curtains can provide two benefits. It can keep heat from the sun at bay. This reduces the load on your heating and cooling system, which saves energy. It also has the benefit of blocking visibility into your home when you’re away.

For security, some people use timers or leave on exterior lights. Make sure any lights left on are LEDs, instead of incandescent or compact fluorescent bulbs. LEDs use less energy and have less impact on your electric use when left on all night. You can also consider adding smart LEDs to your home. Smart LEDs can be controlled remotely through an app on your smartphone.

Did you know there are devices in your home that continue to draw power from your electrical outlets even when turned off or on standby? Before you leave, walk through your home and unplug devices and small appliances. Make sure gaming consoles and computers are fully powered down. Unplugging any devices that have lights, clocks, or standby mode can also reduce wasted energy.

Having peace of mind that your home is powered down and secure can help you enjoy your vacation. After all, we all need an occasional break.

Miranda Boutelle is the chief operating officer at Efficiency Services Group in Oregon, a cooperatively owned energy efficiency company. She has more than 20 years of experience helping people save energy at home.