Your Place: Before end-of-summer vacation, get house ready

McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Despite years of financial crisis, Europeans still leave town in August.

In this country, August vacations may not be universal, but theyíre pretty common. Give your house a holiday, too, following these tips from the Energy Education Council:

Change thermostat settings before you leave. Itís not necessary to keep your home as cool as you normally would if you wonít be inside to care. Turn the thermostat up to a higher setting, or turn it off entirely. If you have a programmable thermostat, you can adjust it to cool down the house just in time for your return home.

Unplug appliances and electronics, to prevent phantom power draw. You wonít be using your desktop computer, television or toaster while youíre away, but they will continue to use energy and waste money if you donít unplug them. Even when appliances are turned off, many of them go into standby mode and continue to draw power. Unplugging them also protects your electronics if thereís a power surge in your absence.

Adjust the water heater. It can account for 15 percent to 25 percent of the average energy bill. Water heaters continue to use energy to keep the water they store warm. Since youíre not using this water while on vacation, why heat it? Turn the temperature to the lowest setting, or turn it off if you will be gone for more than three days.

If you plan on leaving lights on to deter burglars, put the lights on a timer. You can save money by not having the lights on constantly, as well as make it appear that someone is home by varying the times that they are on.

You say youíll be staying home for the remainder of the summer? Then make the house a bit more energy-efficient by cleaning your air-conditioning unit.

Blocked or dirty air filters and coils can reduce your systemís ability to push and pull air through the vents, so be sure to wash or replace filters. Also, remove debris from around the outside unit.

On sunny or hot days, close the drapes or curtains. That helps prevent the summer sun from warming up your home through the windows.