Your passports are renewed, you got the time off work approved, and your big roommate vacation is all set. Your bags are packed and you can’t get out of town fast enough. You and your roommate have gone over how to prevent burglary in the most common sense ways, and you’ll be sure to practice your everyday safety measures, too. You’ve set your vacation budget and you’ll be ready to take on your expenses when you return without being that roommate who bails on rent. Though you decided not to sublet your apartment while away, you’re still wary of the expenses you’re incurring. But there are also a few ways to save money, so you can spend the savings somewhere well-deserved. Here’s what you can do to minimize your utility expenses while away from home.
Address Your Biggest Energy Uses
Long before you lived the fabulous life of roommates, your parents were constantly reminding you to turn the off the lights behind you. At some point, you’ve heard the spiel about unplugging the TV or your cell phone charger when they’re not in use. But you’re probably thinking — how much is this really going to save, right? Writer and website publisher Michael Bluejay, also known as “Mr. Electricity“, says that obsessing over the small things is a waste of time and will ultimately cause you to miss the point.
“Such trivia won’t make a dime’s worth of difference in your electric bill. It’s the bigger things that matter. With that in mind, you’ll first want to address the big energy users in your home first.”
For the budget- and environmentally-conscious roommates, Bluejay suggests focusing on the following when you’re away:
Heating and Air Conditioning
This one is pretty obvious but so easy to overlook when you’re preparing to go away. But if you’re not going to be home, there’s no need to run your heater or air conditioner all day even if you need them on for some of the time during an extended time away. You can find a happy medium, says Tom Price from Bostwick Energy Partners.
“Setting a timer is the best solution for this. You only need to run your heat an hour during the day and an hour at night to keep your pipes from freezing.”
In those hot summer months, monitoring your A/C is equally important. Tom explains that maintaining a minimum of 68 degrees is your best bet for saving on energy costs.
“Every degree below 68 uses an increasing amount of energy. If your home is insulated properly with a working A/C, 68° F will keep you cool,” Price adds.
The refrigerator is the second-largest user of electricity in most homes (13.7 percent), right after the air conditioner (14.1 percent), according to The U.S. Energy Information Administration. While some appliances we can use less to save energy, we don’t have that option here. (Especially when your roommate won’t even clean the fridge.) If you’re going away for just a few days, or even up to 10, it’s not worth unplugging your fridge or doing a mass cleanout. The savings won’t add up (and you might waste more throwing stuff away). But if you’re going to be away for a month or more, consider cleaning out and unplugging the fridge.
Mr. Electricity stresses that you don’t need to worry yourself sick about wearing out your light faster just because you forget to turn them off here and there (although, there’s no reason to be reckless about it!). You can, however, replace older light bulbs with LED lights to save tons of energy. More on that here.
Here’s a fun fact: Washing laundry in cold water versus warm or hot can help you save up to $152 a year, and that’s with no upfront cost. So if you’re one of the lucky ones with in-unit washer/dryer, this is a no-brainer to saving money (because you know that vacation laundry is no joke). And the efficient way to save energy on drying? Skip it all together whenever you can. Invest in a drying rack or simply hang up in your place to dry.
As technology continues to distract us from work and invite us to zone out during social settings, it’s still putting its fair share of good in the world and helping us to live better. Smart devices like the Nest Learning Thermostat 3rd Generation are perfect for renters and homeowners alike when away on vacation. This device optimizes itself for unique preferences and schedules. Not only will it know what to do when you’re away, it saves an average of 10-12 percent on heating bills and 15 percent on cooling bills. This is great if you’re renting a place for a few years and want to invest. It’s also portable to your next rental.