15 ways to save energy at home when you’re on vacation

Your bags are packed, and it’s finally time to hit the road. But before you go, there’s one last thing to do. It’s time to power down your home! Whether you’re escaping for a weekend away, heading out for a week-long work trip or cruising the high seas over a long holiday break, take advantage of all the ways you can save energy and money at home even while you’re away. Check out these 15 quick and easy tips to power down your home so you can truly unplug.

Find energy savings hiding in your HVAC.

Did you know that heating and cooling your home can account for as much as 55% of your household electricity use? That’s… a lot. But that also means just a few small things can make a big difference. Let’s check them out.

1. Set your thermostat to 55° F in the winter or 85° F in the summer. 

First things first: If you’ve left Grandma, Fido, or your award-winning exotic plants at home while you hop a flight to Honolulu, please leave everyone at a comfortable temperature. But if your home is unoccupied, it’s time to crank that thermostat up or down, depending on the season!

In warmer months, set your thermostat to 85° F. For every degree above 72° F you can save up to 3% on your energy bill. That’s some nice savings to come home to! In colder months, set your thermostat to 55° F. Not only will you save a ton of energy, but you’re also ensuring heat will still flow and your pipes will be protected during a freeze. If you’ve got a smart thermostat, use vacation mode to set it and forget it.

Just remember, when you return home and want to recool or reheat the house, only set it to your desired temperature. Dropping the temperature as low or as high as it can go won’t make your HVAC system work faster, but it will make your system work harder for longer.

2. Unplug space heaters.

Space heaters are energy eaters. Whether you’ll be gone for eight hours or eight days, never leave a space heater on when no one is home. It’s a fire hazard. But if you are planning to be away, even for just a night or two, go ahead and unplug any space heaters. Even if they’re off, they’ll continue to use energy just by being plugged into an outlet.

Keep your energy bill out of hot water.

3. Drop your water heater thermostat to its lowest set point. 

If no one’s home, nobody needs hot water, right? So go ahead and give yourself some extra savings by turning your water heater thermostat down to its lowest setting. For older electric water heaters, look for a small plate on the front of the machine that unscrews. You’ll find the thermostat dial in there. If you have a newer, more energy efficient model, set the thermostat to vacation mode. For gas water heaters, you’ll want to check your user manual. It’s important to remember, however, that this might be a tip to skip if there’s a chance of freezing temperatures while you’re away.

Keep food fresh and frozen. 

4. Set the refrigerator thermostat to 35° F–38° F and the freezer to 0° F–5° F.

If you’ve never checked your refrigerator and freezer thermostats (or if it’s been awhile), take 15 seconds to give them a quick glance. For optimal energy efficiency, set the refrigerator thermostat to 35° F–38° F and the freezer to 0° F–5° F. Maintain these temperature ranges year-round to keep food fresh, safe to consume and delicious. (Find more energy-saving tips and advice you can use all year.)

Stop vampire energy and give your electronics a breather. 

Everything that’s plugged into an outlet in your home is using energy, even if it’s not technically “on.” We call this “vampire” energy, because it’s sucking up energy — and money — whether the device, machine, etc. is in use or not. So, before you leave for vacation, do a little vampire hunting around your home! Your printer, the air fryer, the gaming system your kids aren’t allowed to take? Unplug it all!

5. Unplug all small electronic devices, e.g., de/humidifiers, kitchen gadgets, printers.

6. Unplug all TVs, gaming consoles, entertainment devices, computers and laptops.

7. Unplug all power adapters and charging devices.

8. Unplug the microwave, toaster, coffee maker and appliances with an electronic clock.

Leave only necessary lights on. 

9. Turn off indoor and outdoor lights.

While it’s not a bad idea to leave a light or two on when you’re away, you also don’t need to keep the house lit up like the fourth of July! Keep a few strategic lights on but turn off the rest. If you have timers or light sensors, you can set those up, too, so that you only have certain lights on at certain times.

Block out the sun. 

10. Close all curtains, drapes and blinds.

This is another quick and easy tip that only takes seconds to complete. While you’re going around the house searching for things to unplug, close curtains, drapes and blinds. By blocking out heat-producing sunlight, you can maintain a cooler temperature inside. If you’re traveling during warmer months, make sure to check out our tips for saving energy during the toastiest times of the year.

Don’t forget these miscellaneous items.

Keep the energy-saving shutdown going and knock out just a few more remaining things!

11. Turn off ceiling fans and personal fans.

12. Unplug the hot tub heater or drain/winterize hot tub.

13. Turn off or lower the swimming pool heater. (Leave the pump on.)

14. Unplug air conditioners if they’re not needed for humidity control.

15. Unplug landscaping water features if they’re not needed for aquatic life.

Come home to a lower energy bill with the Power Down Before You Go Out of Town Checklist.

Bring a little extra rest and relaxation to your next getaway when you use TVA EnergyRight’s Power Down Before You Go Out of Town Checklist. Enjoy the comfort of knowing you’re saving energy, saving money and maybe even fighting off an energy vampire or two! 

Download the Power Down Before You Go Out of Town Checklist to get started.

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The Residential Team


Save energy and money at home. The TVA EnergyRight Residential Team is here to help you improve your home’s energy efficiency so you can lower your bill and live more comfortably.