Q: I’m going on vacation soon and was wondering what steps I can take now to save energy while I’m gone. Any advice?
A: Yes, there are several actions you can take advantage of before leaving to limit your home’s energy use.
Dealing with your heating and cooling system is your best initial step, since space heating and air conditioning typically make up about 50% of household energy consumption, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. You can give your AC a breather by setting the thermostat to 78 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Turning off the appliance completely may sound like a better option, but it could have unintended consequences. In addition to keeping your home cool on these hot summer days, your cooling system also acts as a humidity control device. If it’s off, the high outdoor humidity could leak indoors and impact furniture or clothing, and could lead to indoor mold or mildew growth. Keeping it at 78 to 80 degrees will ensure the system runs enough to dehumidify but not so much that you waste energy and money.
Another way to reduce your cooling system’s energy use is to clean up around the outdoor unit. Do you have any grass clippings, bagged leaves, tarps, etc. nearby? If so, relocate these items farther away to support the unit’s heat exchange capability and allow it to run more smoothly.
Heading back inside, make sure interior doors are kept open so that conditioned air can better circulate, but close all windows so it doesn’t escape. Furthermore, drawing your blinds or shades before you depart will minimize the heat that makes its way into your home; the more heat enters, the harder your cooling system must work to maintain its target temperature. Closing blinds also increases privacy and could have a security benefit.
Sticking with safety and security, hold off on having any dishwasher and washer/dryer cycles run while you’re away. You may save yourself time by not coming back to dirty dishes or laundry, but you also could end up returning to something much worse, such as a bad water leak. Turning off your well pump or water valve can add to peace of mind, too. Also, consider using motion detection or timer-based lights and having a friend pick up any packages, mail or left-out trash bins to make it less obvious that you’re not home.
You may be interested in saving on energy-related expenses while on the road, too. If you’re driving to your destination, keep your tires inflated properly to improve vehicle efficiency and safety. When cooling off in the car at highway speeds, it’s more effective to use your AC than to roll down your windows, which can increase air resistance, or drag. And using the recirculate function in the summer can help your car AC run more efficiently, sending precooled air back through the system versus cooling hot, outside air.
Finally, remember that the steps you normally take to save energy at home can work the same at a vacation rental property. Just something to keep in mind even though you won’t be paying the power bill.
This article was originally published in Carolina Country magazine.