I have an aunt and uncle who live on the Canadian border and every year they say they turn into “Snow Birds.” In other words, they flee the “Great White North” before the snow falls and turns the landscape into — well, something great and white and bitterly cold.
Over the years, they’ve developed a routine to close up their northern home for the winter so they can fly to their little nest amongst the greenery and sunshine. So, if you’re anything like them, here’s list of 8 key energy efficiency tips to help you make your winter retreat easier.
1) Give a spare house key to a neighbor or friend. Even though it may be unnecessary, it’s always a good thing to have someone you trust check over your home to make sure it’s ok and everything is secure. Since all homes are different, be sure to give them a list of things to check on your behalf.
2) Have your furnace and heating system thoroughly inspected. The one thing you don’t want to happen is your furnace to fail when you’re nearly 1,000 miles away. A furnace inspection can prevent a heating disaster before it happens. Even though you won’t be home to stir up the dust, replace the air filter with a clean one before you leave.
3) Program your thermostat to 55°F. There’s no reason to heat your home when nobody’s there, however, you also don’t want your home to freeze. Setting your thermostat to 55°F will prevent just that. You can close curtains and shades to help keep rooms warm. You’ll also want to set the humidity to a low setting to keep the air dry, preventing condensation problems. A good idea is to install a smart thermostat that can connect to the internet, such as the Nest or EcoBee. That way, you can always check on the temperature without even being there.
4) Turn water heater to “off” or “vacation.” Why pay for hot water when nobody’s home? If you have an electric water heater, turn off the breakers at the fusebox. If you have a natural gas water heater, you can set the thermostat control to its lowest setting or to “vacation.” You could turn off the gas, but some manufacturers’ warranties require that a qualified technician re-light the pilot light.
5) Turn off the water supply. Unless you have house plants that need watering while you’re away, it’s a good idea to turn off the main water valve and drain some of the water in the lines. The idea is that in the event your furnace fails, this will prevent your pipes from freezing and bursting. This shouldn’t effect your hot water heater, even if it is set to “vacation.” Your home’s plumbing is a closed system so water won’t evaporate away. Just be sure to run your taps for 5 to 10 minutes when you return to flush out any sediments before you fire up your water heater.
6) Only plug in those things you want to leave running. If you’re going to be gone all winter, you’ll want to clean out your refigerator and turn it off. Unplug your water softener, water treatment systems, and (if you rely on one) your well pump. If you have a sump pump, you’ll definitely want to leave that on and ready to work. You’ll want to unplug any home electronics such as TVs, home theater equipment, printers, gadget chargers, computers, and other energy zombies. If you are using a smart thermostat with a network connection, remember to leave your network “on”.
7) Put some lights on timer switches. Automatic lighting is an excellent way to deter intruders from your home. A typical plug-in timer sells for $15 to $20 and these can be connected to lamps to turn on and off at pre-set intervals. You can make them even more reliable by using CFL or LED lights since these have far longer lifespans than conventional incandescent light. Also install exterior lights that use motion sensors to illuminate the outside of your home.
8) Plug or close your drier vent. This will help elminate drafts and possibly prevent rodents from climbing into the dryer venting and settng up house. Tape a note to the drier to remind you to unblock the vent when you return.