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:

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.