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Back to School Electrical Notes

With the kids back to school and more rigid family schedules, it’s a good time to start thinking about ways to reduce energy use. Since household activity tends to be more structured in the fall, it’s easier to make those small changes that will improve energy efficiency and lower your utility bills. The first step is to take stock of how your new schedule affects energy use in your home. Are there times during the day when no one is home? Is the return schedule staggered every day – or does everyone come home at the same time? Once you have a clear picture of how much time is spent at home and the energy habits of the household, you can begin making realistic changes in your electricity use.

We’ve put together a list of potential energy-saving solutions for a busy back-to-school schedule:

Unplug Devices (and Chargers) – Be careful of the “energy vampires” in your home, especially the electronic devices that seem to be stuck to the hands of every family member. Before everyone heads out the door for their day, make sure that all electronic devices including smart phones, pads and laptops have been unplugged. This also includes chargers, which will continue to draw power even if they aren’t connected to a device. According to, the average charger consumes .26 watts of energy when not in use – and 2.24 watts when connected to a fully-charged device.

Smart Power Strips – These are ideal for your charging devices and all non-essential electronics in the home. Once the strip is turned off, it cuts off all the power and ensures that there is no energy wasted. Consider creating a “charging area” for the family by placing a smart power strip in a convenient location. When everyone has unplugged their device after charging, simply turn off the power strip. This will help ensure that there are no more “energy vampires.”

Change Thermostat Settings – If you have a programmable thermostat, make sure that the settings reflect the new schedule. If no one is home during the day, and the temperatures have yet to cool down outside, consider programming the thermostat to begin cooling the home about a half hour before the family returns. The weather in Des Moines should be transitioning soon, allowing for several weeks of no central air. Make a note to revisit the thermostat once the outdoor temperatures have fallen (which could be very soon).

Keep Blinds/Curtains Closed – During the summer, it’s not hard to remember to keep the blinds and curtains drawn to maintain a lower temperature. The same tactic should be used as we transition into fall. Make it a habit to check all the windows before everyone leaves the house for the day. It will ensure that the air conditioning doesn’t work any harder to keep the house cool. It looks like we are in for a mild Illinois September, so closing the windows off might be a short-lived task.

Buy Energy Star Electronics – If you are buying new electronics for the fall, like a laptop, printer or smart gadget, make sure that it is Energy Star approved. All of the products that contain an Energy Star label have been confirmed to use less energy (and save money).

Energy Star Site

Limit Device Use at Night – Consider scheduling a mandatory time in the evening when all devices must be turned off. Not only will this cut down on electricity use, but it will encourage reading – or more interactive evenings with the family.

Use Dishwasher More Efficiently – When time is limited, it’s tempting to take shortcuts on housework. It’s definitely easier to clean the dishes every night by doing a load in the dishwasher. But it wastes resources (both energy and water) to run a cycle when the dishwasher isn’t full. Try to limit using it until your dishwasher is completely filled – and never use the dry cycle.

Though the first few weeks of fall can be pretty hectic, especially when back-to-school schedules are part of the agenda, it’s worth the extra time to act on these energy-saving tips. Every small action helps, especially during the hustle and bustle of a new school year. Remember that Cassel is here to help you with all of your heating and cooling needs. We can help install a programmable thermostat or assist with furnace repair and maintenance. Give us a call today at (217) 866-1596 and we’ll schedule service to help you transition into the cooler seasons.