How to Save Energy at Home While on Vacation

By Sher Warkentin in Thinking Sustainably

There’s nothing like some well-earned rest and relaxation, especially if you’re going out of town to get it. Before you pack your bags, have you put any thought into what’s going on at home while you’re away? Preparing your house for vacation can minimize your carbon footprint while you travel. Plus, it teaches your kids why and how to save energy at home.

Unplug, Unplug, Unplug

You may already turn most appliances and electronics off before you leave, but certain items can still use energy just by being plugged in. Items like cable boxes and chargers are commonly referred to as energy vampires. Even the things we use once a day, like a coffee marker , are left sapping energy as long as the cord’s in the outlet. Make it a game to have your kids hunt down all the energy-suckers in your home and unplug them together—whoever finds the most gets first pick of music in the car. This is a great opportunity to teach even younger kids about energy use and what does or doesn’t require power.

Instead of plugging them right back in when you return from your trip, decide if there’s anything that can be left unplugged and vacant, to continue to save energy at home.

Take Your Temperature

There’s no reason for your air conditioning to work hard cooling an empty house. The same goes for your heater if you’re traveling in the winter; have your kids help you set your thermostat to a temperature that allows it to turn off by itself at a certain point based on the season. Or, if possible, turn it off entirely.

It’s also helpful to close vents and doors in some of your rooms to save energy even if your heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system does end up kicking in.

Clean Up Your Fridge

Tackling your fridge before you take a vacation is not only a great way to save energy at home, but it’s also an opportunity to teach your kids about food waste. Survey the contents of your fridge together to determine what you have and if it would go bad while you’re away.

Girl standing in front of open fridge

Based on what you find, make a plan to deal with the food so that you can use it in specific recipes a week earlier, store some items in the freezer, or even take some with you. Filling your freezer can actually help reduce energy consumption while preserving foods you don’t want souring. How? A full freezer is at its most efficient, whereas emptying the fridge enables you to set the temperature higher, using less power as a result.

Get Water Wise

Many kids don’t realize just how critical energy is to their beloved bubble bath. Show them your water heater and, during their last bath prior to vacay, talk about how the process of sending hot water through your pipes and into your shower works to make them warm.

hot water heater

To illustrate this use of energy in a way kids can understand, boil a kettle of water. Explain that if it takes that much heat and energy to boil a small pot, imagine how much is needed for a large tank. Before you leave, have your mini-plumbers assist you in turning the temperature on your water heater down to its lowest setting.

All in the Timing

For security reasons, I usually leave one light on if I’m going to be away from home, but leaving it on for days is a definite waste of energy. Setting a timer for interior and exterior lights is a great compromise. It makes it seem like your house isn’t empty while conserving energy at the same time. Have your kids help you by asking them to figure what hours of the day lights are typically used and setting the timer to those hours.

One of the best things you can teach your kids about ways to save energy at home is that all the little things add up. It may seem minimal to unplug your toaster and crank your fridge up a few degrees, but every bit makes a difference. Help your kids learn that even the small stuff matters, and they’ll be well on their way to being excellent conservationists.

How do you get your house ready for your vacation? Tell us @TomsofMaine!

Image source: Sher Warkentin

This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.

Why It’s Good

A vacation is a great time to lower your carbon footprint and your electric bill. There are many simple things you can do to save energy at home before you head off on vacation. It's also a great opportunity to teach your kids about conservation, and how little steps go a long way to saving money and headache when you get back.