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Back-to-School: A New Year and New Energy Saving Opportunities

Back-to-school means shopping for new notebooks and backpacks and shoes, moving bedtimes back, and gearing up for packing lunches and homework battles. It also means your home is empty (or emptier) during the day. Adjustments for this lowered occupancy and other small actions can realize significant energy and cost savings during this busy, and sometimes expensive, time of year.

Adjust your thermostat

With fewer warm bodies in the house, you can turn up your thermostat a few degrees and still remain comfortable, even if it’s still hot out. Cooling costs fall 4-8% for each degree you raise the temperature setting. If you have a programmable thermostat, review the set points and schedule and reprogram as needed, especially if your house will be empty during the day after the summer sitter and your kids return to their school year schedule.

Try the Department of Energy’s recommendation of setting air conditioning to 78° when home and up to 85° when away. In the winter, try 68° when home and a 7-10° setback when away or asleep. If you haven’t programmed your thermostat, make it a must do on your back-to-school list. For a great interactive aid check out the ENERGY STAR® programmable thermostat tool.

Schedule a fall HVAC check-up

Your back-to-school to do list is likely long, but making room on it for an HVAC check-up is vital to keep your system working effectively and efficiently. Make it easy on yourself with a twice yearly service agreement with a reputable HVAC company. The scheduling is automatic and if you’re comfortable, you don’t have to be there when the technician visits as long as they can access the unit.
Buy ENERGYSTAR® products

Back-to-school may mean a new laptop or printer or even a mini-fridge for a college student. Look for ENERGYSTAR® labels when investing in new electronic devices and appliances. These products are certified high-efficiency and can use up to 65% less energy than ones not certified as ENERGYSTAR®.

Unplug unused devices

Unplug and power off that game system, computer, iPad or other electronics that will now be unused most of the day. This stops the “vampire energy“ that leaks out from plugs, chargers, and electronics while they are not in use. An easy option is to use a smart power strip. These powerstrips have outlets that always have power and other controlling outlets that will automatically cut power to the neighboring outlets when the electrical device (e.g., TV) goes in standby mode or is turned off.

Maximize curtain and blinds

By the end of summer, household routines have often derailed a bit. As you ease into your back-to-school schedule, make daily curtain and blind adjustments part of your morning routine. While summer temperatures persist, close curtains or blinds and windows to trap cool morning air in the house. In the evening, open to capture cooler air for the next day. As the weather cools, reverse and open curtains and blinds to capture solar gain during the day. Repeat daily for lower energy costs and increased comfort, it’s that easy!

Shut the door

School lunch preparation offers another chance to be energy smart. Take all the food you will need out at one time and close the fridge door. Repeatedly opening and closing the refrigerator door forces your fridge to work overtime to keep a consistent temperature, resulting in high energy use.

Back-to-school time is busy, exciting and a new beginning with a new school year. Add these tips to the back-to-school mix and get a new start on saving energy and money too.