Working from home can save you money in some areas: you no longer need to shell out gas money or subway fare for your commute, you won’t be going out to eat on your lunch break as often, and you can stop buying dress pants (since most of your co-workers will only be seeing you from the waist up). However, working from home can lead to a spike in energy expenditures because you are now responsible for the cost of heating, illuminating, and powering your own office space. Fortunately, you can make plenty of small adjustments to your routine that will help conserve energy in your new workspace!
Around the House
The single biggest energy expenditure in any given home is temperature regulation: on average, households spend 47% of their energy on heating and air conditioning. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to cut back on this expense.
Maximize natural resources
On clear days in the winter, take advantage of the sun’s natural warmth by throwing open your curtains and letting the light into the room. While you’re at it, switch off your lamps and save a few dollars by letting the sunshine be your light source. Regular exposure to sunlight has also been tied to increased serotonin levels within the brain, so this trick can also help to banish the seasonal blues. During the summer, on the other hand, it is best to make strategic use of your blinds to help beat the heat.
Take control of your body’s temperature
Before switching your heat or air conditioning on in the first place, try regulating your own temperature first by throwing on a blanket or some extra layers if you’re chilly or running an electric fan (which expends far less energy than centralized air conditioning) if you’re hot. If you must turn on the heat or AC, try keeping a moderate temperature rather than cranking it up or down: each degree of difference from the exterior temperature can ratchet up your bill by 3% per month, which adds up over time. Another easy way to cut down on your heating and cooling costs is to ensure that you clean out your HVAC ducts. Clogged ducts force your furnace and air conditioner to work harder to distribute the chilled or heated air, thus consuming more energy.
In the Office
Once you have established office space, it also pays off to ensure you’re only regulating the temperature of your work environment rather than heating or cooling the entire house. Seal off your office by closing the door, and perhaps even consider installing a draught stopper to ensure your workspace remains insulated.
It can also be helpful to unplug all electronics in your office space when not in use. Even when switched off, some “vampire devices” — such as computers, sound systems, TVs, and any appliance that displays a digital clock—still consume power when left plugged in. If you’re the forgetful type, it may help to plug your computer, monitor, and other office devices into a power strip that you can switch off at the end of the workday to save you the trouble of unplugging these devices one by one. Another option is investing in a smart power strip, which automatically cuts power to plugged-in devices when it senses them go into standby mode.
Finally, while it’s tempting to keep them charging while you’re working, try not to make a habit of leaving your phone or laptop plugged in when its battery is full. While it’s not actually possible to “overcharge” your laptop or cell phone, keeping them constantly 100% charged can impact their batteries’ long-term health. Many people leave their cell phones plugged in overnight, but this practice results in a constant trickle of energy loss as the phone’s charge fluctuates between 99% and 100%.
In the Kitchen
Energy savings can extend to your cooking and dining practices. The biggest step you can take is switching over to energy-efficient appliances. According to the federal Appliance Standards Awareness Project (ASAP), households can save $300-500 per year by converting to more efficient machines. However, many New York City renters can practice tricks to use their current appliances more efficiently.
Maximize the refrigerator’s energy
For example, the best way to maximize the energy efficiency of your refrigerator and freezer is to keep them both three-quarters full at all times. Refrigerators circulate the cold air to keep the foodstuffs inside them cold, and an overstuffed fridge has to work harder to keep the air flowing between items. However, a nearly-empty fridge allows an excess of room-temperature air to enter each time you open the door, forcing the refrigerator to work harder to reestablish its base temperature once the door closes.
A nearly-full fridge is the best compromise, mainly because this increases the fridge’s thermal mass and thus makes it more efficient at maintaining its internal temperature.
Conserve energy while cooking
While cooking on your stovetop, pop a lid on your pots and pans to conserve heat as you cook. When heating water for tea, it also helps only to fill your kettle or hotpot with as much water as you need so that you aren’t wasting energy boiling extra water that will only sit in the kettle and cool back to room temperature. Using your slow cooker (one of the most energy-efficient kitchen appliances) and preparing meals in bulk is another great way to reduce energy expenditures.
Wash dishes strategically
When washing dishes, scouring your plates by hand is less efficient than many believe it to be, so set aside your scrubbing wands and put your dishwasher to work! Make sure your washer is fully loaded to maximize your energy savings.
In the Laundry Room
The “load ’er up” principle applies to your laundry machine and dishwasher, so ensure the drum is full before you start the spin cycle. 90% of the energy consumed by washing machines goes toward heating the water used to rinse your clothes, so simply using cold water to wash can reap significant energy savings. Cold water is equally effective as warm water in cleaning most loads of laundry and can even be better for dealing with certain kinds of stains.
Fill your machine fully
Just as with your laundry and washing machines, it’s best to fill your dryer as much as possible before letting it run. However, a better option is to air-dry your clothes whenever possible to save even more energy. As a bonus, air-drying reduces the wear and tear your clothes endure, extending their lifespan and saving you even more money in the long run.
While working from home may increase your energy consumption, there are several ways to counteract the uptick and reduce your bill. Cutting back on your energy usage is not only beneficial for your wallet but helps combat climate change. It may be challenging to make all of the above changes at once, but finding areas and tips to implement into your daily routine will slowly help decrease your bill without disrupting your day-to-day.