Don’t Forget About Conserving Energy While You’re on Your Summer GetawayPublished on: July 24, 2015
Being able to conserve energy while you’re away is easy by turning up the temperature for your cooling system, regardless of your vacation’s duration. Before you do so, it’s important to consider your options and how they affect the health of your home and belongings.
Turning the HVAC System Off
Depending on how long you plan to be away, it may make sense to turn the system completely off, but only if your home will be completely empty. If you’re leaving any kind of pet behind or plants that can’t tolerate excessive heat, you could be putting them at risk. Before you decide, research the maximum temperatures your pets or plants can tolerate and decide accordingly.
Bear in mind that your refrigerator will run longer and more often, and it may even sweat due to condensation that occurs on its cooler surface.
Another risk associated with turning the system off completely is humidity buildup. Humidity removal is the secondary benefit of air conditioning, and not an insignificant one in this region. Excess indoor humidity contributes to mold growth and dust mite proliferation.
Mold grows on any surface that contains organic particles and enough moisture, like carpets, drywall, fabrics and even inside ductwork. Dust mite waste is one of the most common allergy triggers, and a warm, humid home supports them. If anyone in your family has allergies or asthma, it may not be worth the energy savings to turn the system completely off.
Leaving It On
In the long run, it may make more sense to leave the cooling system on, albeit at a higher temperature. Turning the temperature four degrees higher than you normally keep your home will provide enough cooling and dehumidification to thwart the environmental hazards of mold and dust mite populations.
You can conserve energy while you’re away by turning the temperature up even higher, although it’ll take more time for your home to cool down once you arrive. Not only will the air have to cool, so will everything else in your home, causing your system to run for an extended period.
The best way to cool off your home for your arrival is to use a programmable thermostat, especially if you choose a WiFi-enabled thermostat that you can use with your smartphone or computer. You’ll be able to monitor the system remotely and gradually turn the temperature down without over stressing the equipment.
If you haven’t already, schedule professional system maintenance before you leave. The HVAC technician will clean it thoroughly, adjust it and spot small problems that could become larger issues if left untended. Besides the peace of mind you’ll have, your system won’t use as much energy regardless of thermostat setting.
Give the name of the HVAC contractor and the phone number to the person watching your home in the event of an emergency. At the very least, change the air filter for the air handler to minimize problems dirty filters can cause.
More Ways for Saving Energy
If you’re going to be away more than several days, it makes sense to turn the water heater down or off. Next to your air conditioner, the water heater consumes a good deal of energy. Most gas water heaters that use a standing pilot light have a vacation setting so you won’t need to turn off the gas supply and re-light the pilot when you return. Unlike your cooling system, turning off the water heater to conserve energy while you’re away won’t affect the health or safety of your home.
Before you leave, close window coverings for the south- and west-facing windows to cut some of the indoor heat buildup. Although it will use energy, it’s a good idea to leave a few lights on inside, as well as outdoors for home security.