Warmer weather means picnics, barbecues and summer vacations.  If you’re heading out of town for summer vacation or even a weekend getaway, save a few dollars by taking some basic steps to save money and energy at home. From lighting to air conditioning, turning electronic equipment off or down can save energy and money.

Your air conditioner doesn’t need to run while the home is vacant.  Consider turning the air conditioner off, or at least adjust the thermostat to maximize savings.  Set your programmable thermostat at a higher temperature to save money on what could be your largest single energy expense.

Electronics with digital displays and standby power settings, such as digital clocks, TVs, DVD players, stereos and coffeemakers, should be unplugged to prevent phantom energy use.  These electronic appliances even when turned off utilize a small amount of electricity.  Phantom loads add up to a huge waste of electricity in the U.S. and cost consumers approximately one month’s electricity bill each year.

Make sure all the lights are switched off.  If you are planning to use timers or motion-detecting lights to create the illusion of being at home, use energy-efficient CFL bulbs in the fixtures that are set to light up.

Water heaters can be turned off or turned down to “vacation mode” to save electricity.  Because water heating can account for 14%-25% of the energy consumed in your home and a large percentage of the cost of running a water heater is due to the “stand by” loss this is probably the easiest and most cost effective money and energy saving tip.

Your refrigerator can be made more energy efficient by adjusting the temperature slightly warmer.  If vacationing for a long period of time, empty the refrigerator and freezer, and unplug them to maximize savings.

Windows let in light, which creates excess heat.  Close blinds and curtains to moderate the temperature and prevent your air conditioner from running excessively.

Leaving your home in an energy-efficient state and read the electric meter before and after vacation to see how much energy was saved.  Then use the savings on your next vacation!