Warm weather is finally approaching—meaning summer vacations are just around the corner. While you’re off spending money on a family trip, you can actually save on utility bills at home. To experience energy savings, simply take a little bit of time to prepare the house before you leave.

Adjust the thermostat. Changing the thermostat by even one degree can alter energy usage by about four percent, so when traveling during warm months, keep the thermostat at 85 degrees to minimize consumption. Closing your blinds and drapes can also help to keep the heat of the sun out of the house.

Turn off lights. Any lights left on for security measures should be kept on timers, and those lights will be most energy efficient if using compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). Turn off all ceiling fans as well, since they only effectively cool you, not the home.

Unplug devices. Some devices still consume energy if they are plugged in, even when you’re not using them. This is called a phantom load, which is “any appliance that consumes power even when it is turned off,” according to the US Department of Energy. It is estimated that each home has 20 to 40 of these devices, such as the computer, TV, cable box, coffeemaker, and microwave. Unplug your devices before leaving for vacation, and for long-term savings, consider plugging some of these items into a power strip so that you can easily turn them all off when not in use.

Prepare major appliances. You can also unplug some of your major appliances, like the washer, dryer, and stove. Set the temperature of the refrigerator at 35 to 40 degrees and the freezer at 0 to 10 degrees, and make sure they are both full—perhaps with jugs of water—to keep them running efficiently.

Manage the water heater. The US Department of Energy states that water heaters can account for 14 to 25 percent of the total energy consumption in a home. Water heaters expend energy to keep the water in the tank hot—and since you’re not using hot water while away, this is an easy way to save energy while on vacation. A gas water heater can be switched to “low” or “vacation” mode, and an electric water heater can be turned down to its lowest temperature or completely switched off at the electric panel.

If you want to save energy all the time and not just while on vacation, consider hiring a professional to conduct a home energy audit to help you find ways to make your home more energy efficient year-round.

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Sources: Air Conditioning Contractors of America; Emerald People’s Utility District; Eugene Water and Electric Board; US Department of Energy.

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