Vacation/Empty Home Energy Tips

Vacation/Empty Home Energy Tips

Does a meter still spin when no one's there to watch it go 'round?

Some customers go away on vacation expecting a smaller energy bill on their return, only to find the bill was pretty much the same as when they’re home.

A home's electrical devices are consuming energy all the time, whether the house is occupied or not. This is why it's important to take the proper steps to prepare a home to be empty when it won’t be used for a long period of time. These are a few steps you can take to reduce energy bills while you're away.


Vacation Checklist

PUD 3 has developed a handy checklist to use when shutting down a home for an extended period of time. Feel free to print a copy to use in your home: EMPTY HOME ENERGY CHECKLIST

Expand All

A water heater's usage can represent up to 25% of a home's energy bill. A water heater's heating elements will consume electricity to keep the water in the tank hot whether the home is occupied or not. So if the house won’t be occupied for a long period of time, turn off the water heater at the electric panel. Upon returning, flip the same breaker back on. Allow several hours for the water heater to recharge. In the winter, be sure to drain pipes that will hold water that are located outside the heated area of the home. Don't forget to set the water heater's thermostat to 120°F.


When leaving, set all the home's thermostats to 50°F - 55°F. This way, pipes won't freeze, but energy won't be wasted keeping an empty house warm and cozy.

It's important to note how a thermostat works. A thermostat does not turn OFF a home's heating system. It is simply a controller to tell the heater when to come on. A heater will continue to consume electricity to keep a home warm, even if the home is empty. Heating is the largest consumer of electricity in a Pacific Northwest home. Be sure to adjust thermostats accordingly if the house will not be used for a long period of time.

1950s Dial Thermostat

Also, be sure to unplug all space heaters while unattended.

Refrigerators and freezers are other household appliances that uses energy whether the home is occupied or not. If the house will not be used for a long period of time, consider defrosting and unplugging the refrigerator and freezer. If this is done, be sure to prop the doors open so that there won’t be problem with mildew. If choosing not to defrost or unplug the refrigerator, consider placing gallon jugs full of water in it. This will help the refrigerator to run more efficiently. The water in the jugs will store thermal energy in the form of cold water. It'll be like having "ice cubes" in a cooler. Also, consider lowering the temperature of the refrigerator, depending on the contents, while away. 

Many TVs, DVD players, surround sound systems, and other consumer electronics have "Instant-On" features and small clocks. These features are consuming energy all the time. This can be very deceptive because the device looks like it's turned off. When being away for a long period of time, unplug these devices from the wall. This will ensure they are not consuming energy while not in use. 

Closing the home's curtains acts as an additional layer of insulation between the outside and inside air. It also can increase the security of the home. 

If choosing to leave lights on for security, install timers and photocell day/night sensors, or photocell LED bulbs in outdoor fixtures to ensure that electricity is only used at the time of day when it is important for home safety. 

Install LED flood lights in the fixtures that will be turning on often.


Before locking up, walk around the house to ensure that all small electronics, phone chargers, and clocks are unplugged. These devices are using small amounts of electricity - but it all adds up! Also, turn off and unplug space heaters, hot tub heaters, water features, humidifiers, and other special appliances there may be in and around the home. 

Monitor the daily usage data for your individual account by utilizing the PUD 3 SmartHub app or by logging into your account at Our friendly conservation and customer service staff are standing by ready to help you better understand your usage. Monitoring your usage on a daily and weekly basis can alert you to any issues with your energy usage while you are away. 

Banner 4