How to Lower Your Utility Bills While on Vacation

D.P. Taylor
Written by D.P. Taylor
Updated March 1, 2022
woman adjusting thermostat on radiator
Photo: SolStock / iStock / Getty Images


  • Unplug appliances that use water, cause a fire risk, and consume a lot of energy.

  • Don't unplug anti-burglary systems.

  • Adjust your thermostat 7–10 degrees Fahrenheit toward the outside temperature.

  • Turn your water heater off as well.

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You've had a wonderful couple of weeks in your vacation home, but now it's time to tell it goodbye for a little while. But as you get ready to pack up for home, you begin to wonder: Should you unplug all of your appliances, and should some be left on?

This guide breaks down which appliances to unplug in a home you won't occupy for a while, why you need to do this, and other tips for homeowners.

Appliances to Unplug

10 appliances to unplug before you go on vacation, including a washing machine, television, and computer

Basically, you're going to want to unplug appliances that fall into three categories: ones that use water, ones that present a fire risk, and ones that can drain a lot of energy over time.

Appliances That Use Water

Water is one of the biggest threats to a home. Even a small leak can cause tremendous damage. As a result, shut off any appliance that uses water in case it springs a leak while you're gone. Also, shut off your water supply at the water main to ensure no water flows to any appliance or anywhere else.

Appliances That Can Cause a Fire

kitchen counter with appliances unplugged from outlet
Photo: Cavan Images / Getty Images

Small kitchen appliances like coffee makers, toasters, and microwaves present a small fire risk to your home if left unattended for weeks or months at a time. As a result, it's best to unplug them.

Appliances That Use a Lot of Energy

Many appliances aren't actually "off" when you turn them off. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, these "energy vampires" go into standby mode, and they can make up 10% of the energy used in an average home. Typically, these are any appliances with a remote control or an LED screen. That can include your television, computer, router, or sound system.

Appliances to Leave Alone

You may not want to turn off some appliances, even though doing so may save you some energy.

For example, you'll want to keep security systems activated to protect from thieves. They can include a standard burglar alarm to other anti-burglary systems, like outside lighting and movement sensors. Also, you should have automatic timers to turn lights on and off to give the sense that the home is "lived in."

If you use the TV set-top box to record shows and movies while you're away, it's a good idea to keep it plugged in as well. And if you’re only going to be gone for a week or two, you may also want to leave the fridge plugged in to keep food in your freezer cold.

Adjusting the Thermostat When You Leave the House

If you're leaving a house for an extended period of time, adjust your thermostat by 7 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit closer to the outside temperature. So if you like the indoor temperature at around 70 degrees Fahrenheit, adjust the temperature about 7 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit below that during colder months and 7 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit above that during warmer months. The closer the indoor temperature is to the outdoor temperature, the less your heating and cooling system has to work, and the lower your energy bill will be.

Turning Off the Water Heater

Should you turn it off when you're not home? Yes, you should. Why run up your electric bill heating water when you're not going to be there to use it? This will not cause damage to your water heater, and you won't have to worry about it leaking since it'll be off. Shutting off the water heater will save you a significant amount on the energy bill if you're gone for an extended period.

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