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While you're on vacation, save on energy at home

Consumer Reports News: May 13, 2011 05:44 PM

The kids are counting down the days until school ends and you’ve probably got a few long weekends or a vacation planned. You can also give your finances a break by cutting back on energy use while you’re away. No need to leave the toaster plugged in if you’re not making toast.

Water heating generally accounts for about 12 percent of the utility bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, so before you skip town lower the thermostat on the water heater. The DOE recommends turning it down to the lowest setting or shutting off the water heater if you’ll be away for at least three days. Just be sure you know how to relight the pilot light if you have a gas heater, or use the vacation mode.

The DOE’s Energy Savers blog offers other tips, too. Since another 12 percent of your utility bill typically goes to cooling, drawing the drapes and shades will keep out the sun’s rays. If you have central air conditioning, set the programmable thermostat higher than usual. For example, North Carolinians can set the thermostat to 85 degrees, according to the state energy office. But in Florida, where indoor humidity can lead to mold and mildew, the Florida Power & Light Company suggests setting the programmable thermostat to 71 degrees for four hours before sunrise and to 88 degrees for the rest of the day. Check with your state energy department or local utility for advice specific to your area.

If you have a pool, you can save money by cutting back on the time the pool filter and auto-clean sweep run by programming them for off-peak hours. Lights eat energy too, especially incandescents, so turn most off, but set a few with timers to deter break-ins. Keep in mind that many appliances use a small amount of standby power even when they’re off. So unplug TVs, DVD players, stereos, computers, printers, toasters and coffee makers before heading out the door. Bon voyage!

Kimberly Janeway

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