Normally, this time of year, we would be covering tips on sustainable fashion or sharing how much energy goes into March Madness games, but as everyone knows, we are currently in a unique and unprecedented situation. Millions of people across the U.S. are now working and learning from home to help practice social distancing and limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. That means using more energy during off-peak hours. But what does that mean? In energy, we define peak times as when, where and how people are using energy.
For example, most of us at home use energy in the morning while we are getting ready for work and school, then the demand shifts to buildings, warehouses and plants until we get home again to cook dinner, watch TV and get ready for bed. This regularity means that power companies can predict with relative certainty how much energy needs to be available for consumers, and when.
With this mass behavior change, can Americans’ energy needs still be met?
Thankfully, the U.S. is the world’s largest energy producer, leading in oil and gas and second in wind and solar development, which means this self-sufficiency will come in handy as most Americans stay at home or shelter in place. While there is comfort in know they’ll be heat for homes and power to keep the lights on, there are many people who are concerned with how to pay the bill.
Regardless, the inevitability of the situation is that now, we’re using more energy at home than before and at different times than usual. Because our grid infrastructure is generally accustomed to certain peaks of activity , transferring from work and school’s to people’s homes is creating new peaks for energy usage as parents log into work, students use technology to access educational resources and other are spending more time streaming videos to stave off boredom.
While many utilities across the U.S. have promised to keep the power, heat and water on for all customers, and provide the best service they can amid the COVID-19 outbreak, with Americans spending more time at home and using more energy than normal, Consumer Energy Alliance is helping to provide consumers with six money-saving tips.
Be smart about your thermostat.
Spring can bring unpredictable temperatures. With these fluctuations, consumers can benefit from using a smart thermostat. It learns your heating and cooling patterns and adjusts the temperature accordingly, so your energy use and bills will benefit as well.
Open the blinds and curtains.
Don’t forget to open the blinds and curtains in your home, even if it doesn’t get direct sunlight. The natural light is great for working and helps minimize the use of overhead lights or desk lamps. If you’re going to use lights anyhow, make sure to turn them off in rooms when you’re not using them.
Install window treatments.
By installing an energy efficient window treatment such as shades or drapes in your home office, you can keep heat from coming in your home during summer and prevent heat from escaping during winter.
Use a smart power strip.
If you’re working at home, you may have a computer, printer, scanner, phone, router, and many other devices or electronics. But most people don’t realize that when an electronic device is in standby mode, it still consumes some power. According to the US Department of Energy, standby power, accounts for about $100 in the average home’s electricity cost annually.
Smart power strips can help to make sure these devices aren’t drawing power when you aren’t using them while allowing you to choose a few items to always keep on. Don’t forget to unplug when you can. When at home, unplug everything you’re not using at that moment for work or school, including computers, printers, devices’ chargers, etc. You’ll cut down energy use being sucked up by electronics you aren’t using.
Use your Energy Saving settings on the computer.
Did you know your computer has built-in settings for saving energy? By changing a few settings you can reduce a bit of energy use from your electricity bill. These power modes are active, active standby and passive standby.
For example, you can set your computer to move into lower power consumption modes automatically if you stop using it to take a long phone call or break. Then you can resume working from where you stopped. According to Energy Star, the computer-related electricity cost is reduced by these computer energy consumption modes by about $25-75 per machine annually.
Use a space heater.
Think about using an energy efficient space heater in your office, instead of running your HVAC system. There’s no reason to waste energy on heating up the entire house if you won’t be in those other rooms.
Consider LCD monitors when it is time to replace one.
If you decide to invest in a new monitor, consider opting for a flat-panel liquid crystal display (LCD) one rather than a cathode ray tube (CRT) monitor. CRT monitors consume around 43 more watts than the LCD screens.
Replace your light bulbs.
Consider reducing lighting costs in your home office by replacing incandescent light bulbs with light emitting diodes (LEDs) or compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs). Finally, remember to turn off the lights in your work area when you don’t need them.
Use energy-efficient equipment.
If you are looking for new electronics or office equipment, check to see if it is energy efficient. You can do that by looking for the ENERGY STAR® label on office products. Depending on the device, energy savings could be as much as 75 percent. Also, consider that laptops use less electricity than desktop computers (53 kWh vs. 275 kWh annually).
Check your air registers.
It’s helpful to check that the connections at air vents and registers are well-sealed where they connect with your floors, walls and ceiling. These areas often have leaks and disconnected ductwork. Finally, check your home office and other rooms to make sure that vents are clear of any furniture or rugs to improve air flow.
While many Americans are spending more time at home now and potentially in the coming weeks, we are happy to continue helping energy consumers stay informed and better understand how energy impacts their daily lives today, and into the future.
This post has been updated to include more tips, so you can keep more money in your wallet.
If you have a helpful energy tip to share with us or have fun ways you and your family are saving money, please contact Consumer Energy Alliance at firstname.lastname@example.org.