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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.