NEWS

Avoiding COVID-19 at Home? Here are 10 money and energy-saving tips

12 Mar 2020

The Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) or COVID-19 is in the process of reshaping the order of things at home and abroad. As we all react to the spread of the virus, there are many obvious considerations – groceries, work, event cancelations, hand washing, and apparently toilet paper. But a less obvious consideration is how your electricity bill may change as a result of it all.

Don’t let the Coronavirus lead you into higher utility bills! Follow these 10 tips!

Whether you are a student taking virtual classes, a professional doing remote work, you are self-quarantining, or something in between, you may be spending more time in your house during the day than normal. This may mean that your normally dormant home is running more power as you stay home all day long. But 10 simple habits can help you conserve power and reduce your bills.

Although practicing these won’t equate to a lottery windfall, by developing and conforming to a new routine, the changes you make can really add up to savings and help conserve power for a greener world.

 

1) Important Reminder: Begin Your Day Normally

Most people could never imagine working from home due to the numerous distractions they may face throughout the day. This begins with waking up in the morning, facing the temptation to stay in your pajamas while you sit at your desk, and glancing down the hallway at your bed. Start your day off as if you were going into the office by dressing accordingly. This will set you up for a more advantageous working day and allow you to approach your workspace better.

Familiarity is important, so by keeping up with your general hygiene and appearance, you’ll be able to transition into the office mindset. Remember, you’re not on vacation, but learning how to maintain your home work space is critical for your wallet.

Also, having a workplace mindset should help you to think critically and be aware of your surroundings rather than melting into your couch with a glaze. You’ll need that sharp eye and mind to get to the rest of the tips.

 

2) Unplug Unused Devices:

Whether you know it or not, power is continuously running into your home. That is how a flip of a switch, push of a button, or plug into an outlet results in immediate power. Power outlets on the wall stand ready to supply a jolt of electricity as soon as the socket is inserted. This is why young parents are so careful when baby proofing – electricity doesn’t take a day off! But all this electricity means that you are paying to power things you may not be using.

Consider simple appliances you only use on occasion like an instant coffee maker, toaster, or other kitchen counter dwellers. If you are not using them, but they are still plugged in, they may be drawing standby power so they are ready in an instant. Unplugging these devices may save pennies, but could end up saving hundreds!

In the digital age, great innovation has led to efficiency in standby power, sleep mode, and other “smart” improvements. This means that if you have more modern devices, you may not save much more than a few pennies. But not everyone has the latest devices and appliances, and even so, if you are not using it, unplugging can still save pennies that add up.

 

3) Communicate Efficiently:

The work you do is important and given that technology has forever substituted real-life interactions with online ones, be sure to schedule conference calls with your co-workers in online group settings. The ability to Skype with multiple users is possible, decreasing the amount of time you’re staring at a screen and using the energy to power it. And as more companies and schools are switching to remote work and classes, the strain on digital and telecom infrastructure will increase. Doing your part to minimize that strain will go a long way.

Who knows, maybe you can even finish your work or study day early and close the laptop or turn off other devices. Now that sounds awesome!

 

4) Open Blinds for Natural Light. And Turn Off Lights when You Leave a Room!

Hopefully when you leave the house or apartment for work every day, you remember to turn off all your lights and fans. But now that you’re home all day, you may need light to work, read, or just see your way through the bathroom.

Take advantage of the daylight hours and open your curtains and blinds rather than using the switch at all. If you don’t need the light, don’t use it at all. Natural light is often brighter and whiter than lamps and overhead lights, which can help you see throughout your home better.

If you do need to flip a switch, be diligent about turning it off again right away. You can save a lot by just keeping the lights off.

 

5) Turn Off Air Conditioner or Heater:

You may not even realize the AC or heat is on in your home. We often set them to turn on when a certain temperature is reached, and they are quiet enough and blow soft enough that we sometimes don’t notice when they engage.

If you do want or need them on, try setting them to a more conservative temperature. If the weather is nice, turning off the system altogether is a great option. Keep in mind how your home is insulated, and know that setting a consistent temperature may be more efficient for some than letting your home cool or heat up naturally and use more power to overcome it later.

Try opening the window and changing your clothes before using electricity. If it is cold, follow your dad’s advice and put on socks, pants, a shirt, jacket, and blanket before using the heater. If it is hot, shed a few layers before flipping the AC.

 

6) Turn Refrigerator and Freezer to their Recommended Temperature – and keep them closed as much as possible!

Even though you use your refrigerator daily, you may not think about its temperature setting. Now that you are hunkering down at home, and thinking with energy conservation in mind, you’ll want to check that out.

The temperature is usually set inside the door on your fridge and freezer with a dial. They also include a recommended temperature. This is recommended for a reason. Sometimes people will adjust the temperature for a specific purpose and forget to reset it later. In some cases, people have their temperatures set a few degrees colder than needed for years. This is a great way to waste energy and cost you money.

Checking your fridge and freezer temperature can help you save money in several ways. If it is too cold, you may be wasting money. If it is not cold enough, you could be wasting money on perishable food wasting too quickly. The temperature could also be impacted by ice buildup or vent blockage.

Needless to say, do not leave your fridge and freezer open for long periods of time (I’m talking seconds here!). Starring into the fridge won’t change what food is in it, and the longer you leave it open, the more energy you’re using to keep it cold.

 

7) Turn Down Your Water Heater Temperature:

If the fridge is something you don’t think about, how about the water heater?! Do you even know where it is in your home? It is time to learn so you can save a bit of money and gain new knowledge of your home.

Three simple reasons to lower your water heater temperature are appliance costs, health, and efficiency. Too high a temperature could ultimately diminish the life of the appliance, causing a higher bill later on. Very hot water can lead to burns at the sink and in the shower. Lowering the water heater a few degrees will not threaten your much-loved hot showers, but can save a few dollars. High temperatures can lead to waste in from standby heat and other losses. If it is already set to a good temperature, there is no need to lower it further.

 

8) Turn the TV off:

Whether you like it or not, your television is a big energy sink. Now that you are home all day, you’ll be tempted to leave it on all day. And with the Coronavirus developing, you may be eager for news updates. But be aware of how much that viewing will cost you and make an informed decision about how much you watch.

First of all, if you are a student or are working from home, you should be working – not watching TV! But this is a free country, so follow your heart. Second, the 24-hour news cycle means that the anchors, pundits, and talking heads repeat themselves…a lot, so checking the news every few hours is enough to stay informed by.

Now for the power issue. Leaving your TV on just during the workday may cost an extra one to 10 dollars per month on your electric bill. Maybe a few cents to dollars per month does not mean much to you, but it does add up.

 

9) Do Laundry and Dishes at Night:

Here is a tip that doesn’t require you to unplug anything, turn off appliances, or open windows that invite pollen and privacy invasions. All it requires is changing when you do some common things.

Utility companies often publish educational material so consumers can be most efficient by time of day, which helps everyone.

Knowing how your home interacts with electricity, natural gas, and other utilities will empower you to be a better citizen and more efficient individual. Power is generated on a supply and demand basis, meaning the price of electricity changes throughout the day. The cost of turning on your bedside lamp may lead to a different price tag at noon than at 9pm. Knowing this means you can do the same activities you always do, but save money doing them at different times.

Try to avoid “peak hours” when you may face high-demand surcharges or simply higher costs due to extra capacity needing to come online to meet demand. In addition to demand, make sure to run full loads of laundry and dishes, air dry when possible, and follow manufacturer instructions and recommendations.

 

10) Looking Forward:

In the grand scheme of things, investing in more efficient lightbulbs, better insulated windows, and smarter appliances is the best way to save money and cut down on energy waste. Maybe even consider rooftop solar. For now, stay tight at home, flip the switches off if you’re not using them, and keep electricity in mind!

The economic impact of this pandemic is tangible. Small business owners, travel personnel, and retail workers are on the front lines of the impact. For many, that means no pay check, disrupted revenue, and major losses to inventory, capital, or investments. So if you are in the throws of it, or just bored at home and looking to save a little money, follow these 10 tips.

 

Written by Andrew Jefferis, Media Coordinator and Benjamin R. Dierker, Director of Public Policy