Vacation is the perfect time to save energy
by Donica Kaneshiro | March 13, 2023
When I go on vacation, I try not to think about the bills waiting for me back home. It’s a break from the everyday issues of real life. But there are plenty of things my family does to save while we’re away and make that pile of bills not quite so intimidating.
We know a full refrigerator and freezer uses less energy to stay cold than an empty one. But if you’re like me, you try to run down those food stores when a vacation is approaching. I don’t want to be confronted with a half-eaten carton of freezer-burned ice cream and last month’s beef stew when I return home basking in my post-vacation glow.
A few days before we leave, I fill plastic containers with water to load up the fridge and freezer, keeping them from having to work so hard to stay cold.
I also put a coin on top of the ice in one of the containers as a low-tech alert system to let me know if my food might not be so fresh. If we return home and the coin is still resting on a block of ice, I know everything stayed frozen while I was gone.
If the coin is embedded in the ice, I know that something went awry with my appliance or the power while I was away, and the water (and food) thawed and refroze. Then I can make an educated decision about what’s likely still safe to eat (bread) and what’s likely not (raw chicken) based on U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines.
Back in the day, my mom used to leave a light on in the house the whole time we were gone to make would-be robbers think someone was home. These days, I program my LED smart bulbs to turn on and off via an app on my phone or tablet for the same effect but using far less energy.
Just before we leave, we make sure that anything that has a digital clock (like the microwave) or turns on with the push of a button is unplugged to reduce phantom load — energy that devices draw even when not in use. This includes TVs, computers and video game consoles and all their peripheral devices, like printers, cable boxes and Blu-ray players.
We turn off the water heater and make sure the timer won’t turn it back on, so that we’re not spending extra energy keeping a full tank of hot water when there’s no one home to use it. Then we make sure anything else that’s on a timer, like the air conditioner and alarm clock, are turned off, too.
I’m not sure all these little steps add up to huge savings — most of the impact to our bill comes from our family not actually being home — but every little bit helps.
And while we might not save enough to afford another getaway, we just might save enough to afford one more vacation splurge.
Donica Kaneshiro is a communications consultant at Hawaiian Electric Company.