If you're among the 48.7 million Americans who started working from home at some point during the past two years, you may have noticedmuch to your dismaythat your home's monthly energy bill jumped way up. While working from home has its benefits, a higher energy bill is not one of them.
Fortunately, higher energy costs don't have to be a part of your "new normal." Even if you only work from home a few days each week, here are four strategies for cutting back on your home's energy usage and lowering your overall utility costs.
1. Set up a Dedicated WFH Office (And Stay There)
Creating a dedicated workspace within your home has numerous benefits. Most notably, it increases your productivity by instilling a sense of discipline and minimizing distractions. Setting up your own WFH office can also help prevent work-related stress from becoming associated with other areas of your home. Yet, one of the most overlooked advantages of a WFH office is its energy-saving potential.
When you confine your work to one dedicated area, it allows you to effectively let the rest of your home "rest" by powering off lights and appliances that aren't in use elsewhere. Switch off the lights in unoccupied rooms, turn off or unplug appliances that don't need to be on, and even consider adjusting the heat or AC in those rooms if they don't need to be at optimal temperature for long stretches. (See below for more on thermostat-related strategies.)
2. Shift Away from the “Always-On” Mindset
For many employees, the shift to WFH has complicated the conventional nine-to-five mindset, making them feel as if they're never fully off the clock. That same logic might hold true for your WFH devices as well. Whereas once you may have shut down your computer at the end of a workday, nowadays it's always on, ready for any task that may suddenly arise.
"Phantom power" can be an invisible but substantial portion of your monthly energy costs. Also called "standby power," phantom power refers to the electricity that is being wasted by devices that are plugged in but not actively being used. According to some estimates, it may account for as much as 25% of your energy bill.
Your desktop left on overnight, your laptop and smartphone chargers permanently in outlets, that printer you leave plugged in all year but only use once every month or soall these WFH devices are using energy round the clock even when you're not using them. Consider unplugging any device you can live without until it is actually needed. You may also want to consider the benefits of smart home devices like smart plugs and light-bulbs that you’re able to control from a central app or hub.
3. Do A Temperature Check
If you live and work in a less temperate region of the country, heating or cooling your home likely accounts for the lion's share of your energy bill. Adjusting your thermostat, even by just a few degrees, so that your HVAC system is doing less work, can have a profound impact on your energy bill. According to energy.gov, you can save as much as 10% on your annual energy costs if you're able to turn your thermostat back 7F – 10F for eight hours during a 24-hour period. One way to do this is by taking advantage of the more relaxed dress code that may come with working from home. Layer up or layer down to stay comfortable.
Another way to do this is to make sure you're using your thermostat's programmable settings to full effect. You may be able to automatically turn the heat down during the night while you're warm and cozy in bed. Finally, you could make your thermostat work harder for you by talking to an HVAC specialist about installing a smart thermostat or zone-heating system. These HVAC technologies can help direct heat or AC to only occupied rooms, scale up or down based on whether you're coming or going from the house, and adjust the temperature inside in real-time based on weather data, all efficient, cost-saving measures.
4. Take Advantage of Natural Energy
Let Mother Nature help you with your energy bill where she's able. If you can set up your WFH office in an area with ample natural lighting, you'll be able to avoid using artificial light during most of the workday. The same idea goes for temperature. Choose a place in your home that has a good breeze or airflow to keep you cool during warm months and better insulation to keep you warm during cold months.
Lastly, if working from home is likely to be a long-term arrangement for you, you may want to investigate installing solar panels if you own your home. The federal government, along with a number of state governments, has offered tax credits to incentivize the adoption of solar power and make the decision more affordable.
Of course, there are other ways to save besides cutting back on your energy use. You could also make sure you're paying the best electricity rates in your area. If you live in a part of the country with multiple energy providers, you should enter your ZIP Code in the Rate Comparison Tool at the top of the page to compare rates in your area. Switching is free and only takes a few minutes.