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What should I do if I go on holiday?

Off on a much-needed and well-deserved holiday? Here are a few tips to help make sure you don’t waste cash or energy in your home while you’re away.

Holidays are a time for taking it easy, so you really don’t want to waste valuable relaxing time worrying about whether you remembered to turn the heating off or the security light on.

Here are some helpful hints to make sure you can relax while you’re away.

Should I turn the heating off while I’m away?

If you’re off on a summer holiday, your heating’s probably turned off already, so nothing to worry about there. However, if you’re going away in the winter, put the heating on a timer, so it comes on for an hour or two each day during the coldest times, to make sure the pipes don’t freeze up in your absence. Between 3am and 4am each night is probably best, as that’s usually when temperatures are lowest. There’s no need to leave it on 24/7.

Your hot water is a different matter. You shouldn’t need any hot water while you’re away, so if you have a conventional boiler with a water cylinder or tank where you heat up all the water once or twice a day, turn it off before you leave. You’ll save money because your boiler will use less energy.

If you’re worried about freezing temperatures, leave your boiler on a ‘frost’ setting, or set the timer to come on (at a low temperature) between 3am and 4am each night.

Set up a security light on a timer

Invest in an automatic timer which will turn lamps on and off at pre-programmed times. This gives the impression that someone’s in without wasting money on keeping lights on when they’re not needed.

When you set up your timer/s, be realistic about the timings. And if you’ve got one upstairs and one downstairs, set them at sensible times to make it look as if you’re going upstairs to bed.

Fridge facts

Fridges and freezers use huge amounts of energy, but obviously you don’t want to switch them off if you’ve left any food in them.

However, if you can organise your meals so you eat up all the food before you leave, you could switch your fridge and freezer off and save on your bills. Visit the Centre for Sustainable Energy website for information about how to work out what you could save per day.

If you do manage to eat up all the food, clean out your fridge and/or freezer. Wiping it down with bicarbonate of soda (or baking soda) dissolved in water is the traditional ‘green’ way to clean fridges. Just sprinkle a bit on a damp sponge and rub it over the shelves, sides and back wall of the fridge or freezer. Rinse the sponge to get rid of the baking soda residue, and then use it to wipe the soda off the inside of the fridge.

There are also plenty of commercial fridge-cleaning products available if you prefer.

Switching a fridge or freezer off means it will defrost, so don’t turn it off just as you’re setting off on holiday, or you’ll come back to a very wet floor. If you turn it off in good time, you can supervise the defrosting and catch the water in trays or towels (or whatever you usually do).

Once you’ve switched off your fridge or freezer, make sure you leave the door or lid open while you’re away. Otherwise you’ll come back to a very smelly appliance, possibly with mould growing in it.

If you can’t manage to eat all the food before you leave, you need to think in the opposite way, because fridges use less energy when they’re well stocked. So instead of emptying them, you should fill them.

Don’t pack your fridge with food – it could be wasted if it goes past its use-by date while you’re away. Instead, stack the shelves with bowls or jugs of water.

Of course, these don’t need to be kept particularly cold, so you can turn the fridge’s setting down to a slightly warmer temperature. Just a couple of degrees can cut your energy use by up to a quarter.

Should I unplug everything before I leave?

Okay, you didn’t manage to eat up everything in the freezer so you need to leave it switched on. Your bedroom lamp’s on a timer for security purposes. And your TV recorder box needs to be left on so it can record your favourite shows.

But apart from that, everything can be switched off. Before you leave, go round and unplug the lot. Bedside lamps, radio alarms, printers, kettles, washing machines – and definitely anything with a standby light. Because they’re all using electricity, and it all adds up.

Last one out close the curtains

Blinds and curtains are the simple way to insulate your home. They keep the heat in during the winter and out in the summer. So close as many curtains as you can without making it obvious that there’s nobody in the house. If you do ask a neighbour to drop in and keep an eye on things, opening and closing the curtains is an easy way for them to make it look as though your home is occupied.

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