decorative graphicWith summer underway, breaks from school and work can mean a busy traveling season or extra time to relax at home. Homeowners often take steps to prepare for their trips, from arranging for pet care and mail pick-up to extra locks and timers to secure their homes. There is one important step many overlook, however: preparing your home for summer energy consumption. If you’re traveling this summer: Think about ways to protect your home from energy thieves that will run up your monthly energy bills. Here are a few tips to get started:

  • An empty home can’t tell the difference in temperature. Turning your thermostat back 10°F – 15°F while you’re away from your home or on vacation can save around 10% a year on heating and cooling costs.
  • Make sure you unplug small and infrequently used appliances. “Vampire power,” energy used by devices not in use, accounts for $100 in yearly energy loss. You can also switch devices to plug into a power strip that can be easily flipped off for year-round convenience.
  • Close all blinds and shades to block the sun and reduce the amount of unwanted heat entering your home that forces the A/C to work harder and use more energy.
  • Before leaving for vacation, make sure all lights are turned off except those for security purposes.
  • The default manufacturer setting for many water heaters is 140°F, but 120°F should be sufficient for most homes. This simple act can save you up to 11% on your water heating costs.
  • While retrieving those summer recreational items from the attic or basement, take the opportunity to inspect your insulation levels. If your insulation is just level with or below your floor joists (i.e., you can easily see your joists), you should add more.
  • Before heading out of town, be sure to replace your HVAC filters. Dirty filters make your system work harder and lower air quality, in addition to driving up costs.

If you’re staying home this summer: Summer vacation can be the perfect time to relax and enjoy time with family. But the hot weather combined with more time spent at home during the day may result in sticker shock on your next energy bill. In between barbeques and trips to the pool, take the extra time to determine the best steps for your family and budget to reduce your consumption. You may not be able to control the outside temperatures, but there are many ways to take control of your indoor environment.

  • Find your inner DIY warrior this summer by starting with our Home Energy Checklist to find the needed energy improvements around your home.
  • Consider investing in a professional home energy audit. Your utility or local energy organization may even offer a rebate to help offset the cost. Check out our incentives page to see your eligibility.
  • Your kids may not be paying the bill but they are consuming energy, so take the opportunity to teach them the basics of energy use and the things they can do to help curb summer bills. Find games, lessons and other resources for all ages.
  • Spending the summer preparing your college-bound child for dorm life? From desk lamps to mini-refrigerators, be sure to look for the ENERGY STAR label on all dorm room essentials. Find more energy-saving tips to share with the college student in your life here.
  • Help keep the heat outside of your home by using the outdoor grill and an outdoor cooler for beverages and other items to limit trips inside. Try a heat-free meal to stay cool, or for the family favorites, use a crock pot – it uses half of the electricity of a conventional oven.
  • Be sure to lower the A/C before you leave home to visit your local community fair. See if Virginia Energy Sense will be at an event near you for your chance to pick-up free information and energy-saving gadgets.
Lesson Plans
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Get your students energized about responsible energy use! In partnership with the Virginia Department of Education, we’ve created fun, multi-day, Lesson plans to help you teach your students how to understand and conserve energy! They’re classroom-ready and free to use!