Earth Day, Daylight Saving Time, and the upcoming Memorial Day holiday have me already looking forward to my annual summer "big trip." Before leaving town for extended periods of time, I always take some basic, small steps to save money and energy at home, including:
- Turning down my water heater to "vacation mode." Because water heating can account for 14%–25% of the energy consumed in your home and a large percentage of the cost of running a water heater is due to the "stand by" losses, this is probably the easiest and most cost effective money- and energy-saving tip I use.
- Setting my programmable thermostat at a higher temperature than usual.
- Unplugging "energy vampires," electronic appliances that even when turned off utilize a small amount of electricity, called phantom loads, including my coffee maker and grinder, GPS, headset chargers, laptop computer, TV, rechargeable toothbrush, and a printer. According to this YouTube video posted by GOOD, Americans waste approximately one month's electricity bill each year on vampire energy.
- Keeping my window shades drawn to help keep the house cool from the afternoon sun.
- Making sure all lights are turned off. For lights on a security timer, I use CFLs, which have about 75% energy savings.
During vacation, I also try and save money and energy by:
- Trying these tips for improving your vehicle's fuel efficiency, including driving sensibly. (Aggressive driving—speeding, rapid acceleration and braking—wastes gasoline.)
- Considering neighborhood electric vehicles for short distances.
- Carpooling and using public transportation.
It's always nice reviewing the month's utility bill and realizing how easy it was to save energy and money at home while on vacation.
Chris Stewart is a senior communicator at DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which assists EERE in providing technical content for many of its Web sites.