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The Hidden Energy Costs of Working from Home

by Christopher Russell, Energy Program Manager

If you find yourself working from home these days, you will probably notice a bigger utility bill at the end of the month. What used to be your employer’s cost of workplace heating and cooling, computer use, water heating, coffee makers and other conveniences are now your expense. Some folks may shrug off this cost. But in other households – especially ones dealing with lost wages – expense relief becomes imperative.  

The good news is there are ways to save and reduce household energy expenses without large sacrifices to your comfort.  All it takes is a little awareness and discipline. The main take-away is do not  let appliances run when you are not using them.  Consider these tips:

  • Televisions – If you use a TV just for the audio content while you are working, use a radio instead.  It takes power to run a screen not being watched.

  • Power strips – Plug your entire home entertainment system into a single power strip and use that power strip to shut down everything at the end of the day.  As a group, your TV, DVD, cable box and sound system draw more power than a refrigerator.  Same goes for your computer printer and monitor, use a power strip for easy power management.

  • Hot water use – Do not let the tap run,  especially hot water.  Manage your water use when doing the dishes, taking a shower or even brushing your teeth. Minimizing shower time, only run full loads in the dishwashers or dryer. Excessive hot water use hits both your water and energy bills. Wash your clothing in cold water to save on your bills and extend the lifespan of your garments.

  • Water heaters – Set the water heater temperature to 140 degrees is sufficient to save. Some dishwashers have heat boosting elements that would enable you to dial back your water heater to 120 degrees. Look up your dishwasher specs online or check the owner’s manual.

  • Fans – These appliances do not cool the air but draw heat from your body as they move air past your skin surface.  Running a fan in an empty room will only inflate your electric bill.

  • Window blinds and curtains – With minimal effort, you can manipulate blinds and curtains a couple times per day to reduce your home’s heating and cooling system costs.  In the summer, reduce solar heat gain by closing window coverings on the side of the house exposed to the sun.  During the winter, practice the same exercise in reverse; open your window coverings to maximize solar heat gain. Do this for all rooms, whether occupied or not.

Finally, consider altering your thermostat settings for heating and cooling the entire house. Decide if you can tolerate being just a little warmer in the summer, or cooler in the winter. This will probably require a change in at-home wardrobe choices: adding a sweater and warm footware in cold weather or choosing lighter weight clothing during summer.  Working from home during summer months? Consider setting up a workspace in the basement, if possible. One last summer tip:  Remember to hydrate through the day, as your water intake helps to regulate body temperature.