As you pack up the kids and head out the door for your well-deserved summer vacation, don't forget to give your home an energy break as well.
Keeping the air conditioning running and all your appliances going, as if you were home, will mean a big electric bill will be waiting when you return. And don't overlook the additional carbon dioxide that your utility will be spewing into the air to provide electricity no one is using.
So, for your financial well-being, before you leave for your trip don't forget to:
■ Shut off the air conditioner. If you can't, set the thermostat to 85 or so. For each degree you raise the setting on the thermostat, you can knock off 2 percent to 3 percent from the cooling part of your electric bill, according to the utility Arizona Public Service.
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■ Turn off your water heater at the circuit breaker or fuse box. Otherwise, it will be keeping water warm the entire time you're gone, costing between $4 and $10 a month, according to the green living website GreenYour.com.
■ Set the thermostat to a slightly warmer setting in your refrigerator. Better yet, if you're going to be gone for a month or so, shut it down. The same goes for your freezer. One hint if you do that: Make sure you clean it out before you go and prop open the door to keep mildew from forming.
■ Turn off the lights except those needed for security purposes, and use timers or motion detectors so they aren't running 24/7.
■ Buy a timer for your swimming pool so that the pump does not operate around the clock.
■ Unless you've got your digital video recorder set to tape Breaking Bad or the latest episode of your favorite TV show while you're gone, pull the plug on the recorder. The same goes for TVs, cell phone and battery chargers, computers, microwave ovens, digital clocks, printers, scanners and anything else you can think of.
And it's not just enough to turn them off in some cases. Computers, television, DVD players and appliances still use power to run features such as clocks and remote controls. One study said standby power can suck up as much as 10 percent of your electricity bill.
The typical residential electric bill runs about $100 per month, and electricity consumption often is higher in the summer with the air conditioner running full blast. So taking simple steps to cut electricity use while you're gone can pay off for your wallet and the environment.