Ask the Energy Expert
How can I save energy at home when I go on vacation?
Q. When I leave for vacation, I expect my home to use less energy. My electric bill never seems to change much. What can I do differently?
A. There are several things you can do. One of them is to have realistic expectations. Some appliances will still need to work and use electricity, a key reason your energy use may not change as much as you expect.
Here are a few things to keep in mind about how your home may use energy during your summer vacation:
•Air conditioner (AC): Your AC is probably the largest energy user in your home during the summer. You can save by turning the setting up a couple of degrees (85° or so). Be cautious about going overboard. If you completely turn off the air conditioner, refrigerators and freezers work harder and you forego the dehumidification your AC provides.
According to the National Weather Service, next month (July) is the hottest month in the St. Louis region, with an average high temperature of 89.1°F. It's also a prime month for family vacations. Regardless of whether you are home or away, when it’s 95° outside and you want an inside temperature of 75°, the air conditioner will do whatever is necessary to meet the desired setting (provide 20° of cooling). If you set your thermostat at 85°, you will help reduce the negative impact on other appliances if we have a really hot, humid spell while you're away.
Our Member Services and Consumer Services representatives can help you review daily temperatures and meter readings to identify the impact of weather on vacation energy bills.
• Water heater: Your water heater also works to maintain a set temperature around the clock. If the water heater is set at 125°, it works to hold this temperature whether or not any water is used. You may notice some savings during your absence if you have a high-efficiency model with a well-insulated tank. You'll save all year by reducing the water temperature to 120°. If you have an electric model and leave for an extended period (1-2 weeks), you may save by turning off the water heater at the breaker. There will be a modest increase in use the day you turn it back on.
Heating water takes a lot of energy. If you have a heated water bed, pool or hot tub, they will contribute to vacation energy use if they are plugged in and/or turned on.
• Refrigerators/freezers: These appliances — especially older models — are among the larger energy users in your home. They actually use less energy when they're full. Instead of leaving an empty refrigerator running, consider filling water bottles for the refrigerator and freezer. Once chilled, they hold the cold.
• Today’s home: Most homes have multiple televisions, home entertainment equipment and a variety of computers, home electronics, battery chargers, etc. Their "instant-on" features constantly use a trace amount of electricity. To save energy any day, unplug them when they are not in use. If they can't be disconnected, understand that they continue to use energy when not in use.
For home security while you're on vacation, do you plug lights into timers? Do you have an aquarium, or leave clocks and DVD players plugged in to an outlet? The electric meter will continue recording even small amounts of energy consumed.
• Dehumidifier: Do you use a dehumidifier to help control moisture in your basement? Some dehumidifiers run around the clock. This appliance can reduce the stress on your cooling system and may be very necessary, but it will continue to use energy while you're away. If possible, adjust the setting before you leave.
We also hope you'll consider the potential impact of these activities:
(1) Vacation preparation and return: Consider that you might use more energy while preparing to go on vacation. Extra laundry chores (such as washing, drying, ironing) can increase energy use before you leave and when you return.
(2) Billing period: Your billing period may not coincide with your vacation. Expected savings, or weather-related use may be distributed between two bills. You can easily compare your vacation dates with the information that appears on your bill.
Cuivre River members planning to take extended vacations can benefit from e-bill payment services on www.cuivre.com. You can view your bill and energy use history, pay your bill online by bank draft or credit card month-by-month or enroll in the EZ Pay automatic payment program. Enjoy hassle-free payment of your electric bill by bank draft or credit card payment.
No computer? Sign up for EZ Pay by completing the information on the back of your monthly bill.
The last thing we want you to worry about while you're on vacation is your energy bill. And we don't want you to get an unpleasant surprise when you return.
If you have specific concerns about vacation energy use, your billing period, payment, or what the weather was doing to your electric bill while you were away, please call one of your Member Services Representatives: 800.392.3709, 636.695.4700 or 636.528.8261, ext. 334, 272, 233, 4732 or 4733.