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  • Writer's pictureCheré Dastugue Coen

Turn off while you're on the road

5 ways to curb energy consumption in your house during vacations.


I’ve wondered when hitting the road in my travel writing profession what I can do to curb energy consumption in my home while away. Turning off these energy sources puts more money in my pocket and helps save the planet from wasteful fossil fuel releases.

MakeMyHouseGreen, a London company specializing in solar energy installations for homes, offers some advice for those traveling and wanting to unplug at the same time.

Start with the Water Heater

The water heater is one of the biggest energy consumers in your home, according to the company. If nobody is going to be using hot water for a few days or weeks, turn it off or set it to “vacation mode” to save energy.

Refrigerator and Freezer

MakeMyHouseGreen suggests that if you might be going on an extended holiday, consider emptying your fridge and freezer and turning them off. I’ve lived through the aftermaths of hurricanes, and dealing with fridges being off for many days left me with nightmares. This suggestion freaks me out a bit but of course, the company suggests emptying the appliance first, which wasn’t the case with my mom’s fridge after Hurricane Katrina.

Still, I would suggest MakeMyHouseGreen’s suggestion of setting the fridge and freezer to a higher (but still safe) temperature.

And it's always a good idea to eat the contents before leaving. If there's a power outage while you're away, you will experience what I did after Hurricane Katrina and opened my mom's appliance—a stench that will never leave you along with a disgusting mess.

On second thought, maybe emptying the fridge and freezer, giving it a good cleaning and turning it off is not a bad idea.

‘Vampire Power’ of Electronics and Appliances

This one I do every day, and agree it’s a must when you travel.

Even when minor electronics and appliances are sitting unused, they continue to draw “phantom” or “vampire” power. On their own, their energy consumption doesn’t account for much, but it can add up over a period of time.

I unplug little appliances like toasters after every use but also remove cell phone cords from outlets once my phone is charged. Small savings, but like the folks at MakeMyHouseGreen said, they add up. If you travel, I’d recommend turning off computers and unplugging the power strip and unplugging the TV.


I’ve been turning off lights since Pres. Jimmy Carter and the '70s energy crisis. I also believe we use way too much exterior light for security reasons, much of which isn’t necessary. (Did you know most burglaries happen during the day?)

MakeMyHouseGreen offers some tips: “While it’s a common practice to leave a light on for security reasons, it’s often unnecessary and wasteful. Instead, consider investing in a timer that can turn your lights on and off at set times, giving the appearance that someone is home without wasting electricity.”

What if You Have Pets?

Now, here’s the conundrum. What do you do if you must leave your pets behind?

I have two cats who take care of themselves in short spurts—we’re talking a day or a day and a half at best. I leave on a low-energy light for them, plus keep the A/C working on hot days (I live in the American South), although I do turn the temp up to a comfortable but non-chilly level. (Most experts agree that it's best to keep the A/C on but at a much higher temperature to save electricity.) I do the same on long-distance trips, but naturally, there’s someone enlisted to take care of my fur babies.

One thing I do leave plugged in is my pet's water fountain. A pet sitter can easily refill a water bowl so it's not a necessity but my pets are more apt to drink from the fountain and I worry a closed house will get hot and dry and so they need constant hydration.

Obviously, pets are a different story when it comes to saving electricity and money. But you can do the first four easily and your pets won't notice a thing.

Cheré Dastugue Coen writes the Weird, Wacky & Wild South blog. She's an unapologetic treehugger. She used to drive her mother mad walking behind her and turning off the lights. But hey, her mother should have done that anyway, right?

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