Q: When we reopened our camp house in the spring, we started wondering if we'd been wasting electricity over the winter by keeping our electric water heater and fridge running. Can you tell me how to safely lower the energy the camp uses after we close it in the fall?
A: Absolutely. In fact if you're willing to make some careful preparations, you can do more than lower your empty camp's energy use; you can eliminate it. It's a matter of winterizing the entire house, including the water heater, and carefully following proper methods to drain any device that uses water. I strongly recommend finding a trusted contractor in the area to complete this for you, as mistakes could lead to burst pipes, cracked toilets or busted water heaters.
Prepping the refrigerator is simple. Empty and clean the fridge, unplug it and prop the door open to prevent smells from developing. When all this is done, turn off the main power at the breaker box, and head home knowing that you've properly tucked in your camp for its winter hibernation.
Energy Greedy Refrigerators
Q: I've had my refrigerator 15 years and it has never given me any problems. My son says that it's an energy hog and that he wants to buy me a new one. I've seen you recommend saving energy with timers. Are there timers for refrigerators? My son doesn't like the idea but he agreed to wait for your opinion.
A: I'm going to have to side with your son about the timer. A timer is a great way to automatically save energy when used with a device like a pool pump that you want to operate for limited periods. But since a timer works by turning on or cutting off electricity to whatever it's connected to, it won't work for a fridge. A refrigerator needs to be constantly supplied with electricity in order to prevent your food from spoiling.
Your son may also be right about your fridge being an energy hog. Typically, a 10-year-old refrigerator can use as much as twice the energy that a new Energy Star qualified fridge uses. That translates to an extra $40 or more on electric bills each year. However before replacing your refrigerator, you can find out how much power it uses with a simple plug-in meter. Efficiency Vermont loans these meters at no cost and can help you to interpret your results. This will enable you to know how much lower your electric bills could be with a new fridge. You can reach Efficiency Vermont toll-free at 888-921-5990.