Strategies to Lower Your Energy Bill When Working From Home

By Kim Franke-Folstad · May 08, 2023 · 7 minute read

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Strategies to Lower Your Energy Bill When Working From Home

One of the obvious perks of working from home is the opportunity to cut some expenses.

Almost one in three workers remains fully remote in early 2023, and no wonder. When you no longer have to commute every day, you save time and money. You can prep lunch everyday versus buying a pricey takeout salad, and you don’t have to buy (or clean) work clothes anymore. You’re likely to notice some savings quite quickly.

However, there are other costs that might ratchet up just because you’re home more — and that includes energy costs. The extra time you may be spending on your laptop, watching Netflix, or even boiling water for a ramen lunch could nudge your energy usage upward — and your monthly electric bill.

If you have those bills set on autopay, you may not have noticed an increase. Or maybe you noticed the expense creep up but didn’t know what you could do to manage it.

Fortunately, with some planning, you can probably minimize your energy bill. Here are some strategies that might help while you’re working from home:

In the Home Office

You may have put some thought into setting up your office in a way that works ergonomically and looks presentable on Zoom. But have you thought about making your workspace energy efficient?

Choosing Power-Saving Equipment

If there’s a choice, consider using a laptop instead of a desktop computer to do your work. According to Energy Saver, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) consumer resource, it takes much more power to run a desktop and its monitor than it does to run a laptop.

And with the laptop, there’s a battery for backup if the power fluctuates or there’s a brownout due to high electricity demand in your area.

Those who are new to working at home and purchasing their own office equipment may want to check out Energy Star-certified computers, monitors, and printers, which run more efficiently than standard equipment and use about half as much electricity.

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Unplugging at the End of the Day

Remote workers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from a break at the end of their day. The computers, phone chargers, and other pieces of office equipment they rely on may continue to draw power even when not in use.

For convenience, workers may want to consider attaching these “energy vampires” to a smart power strip, with just one easy-to-reach switch to flip when it’s time to call it quits.

Also: Not to be a Grinch, but come the holiday season, if you like to keep the holiday lights on all day to brighten your work area and deliver a holiday mood, you might rethink that. The cost of holiday lights can add up.

Recommended: Adjusting Your Budget for Working from Home

Letting Computers Take a Nap

Another way to save money on energy is to set a computer to sleep or hibernate if it’s going to sit idle for a while. This differs from using a screen saver, which actually may take extra energy to keep an animated display active on the screen.

When a computer enters sleep mode, the power is cut to any unneeded systems, and the memory receives just enough power to maintain data.

In hibernation mode, the computer saves open documents and running applications to the hard disk instead of to RAM, which means it uses zero power. It takes a little longer to start back up from hibernation, though, so sleep mode may be better for shorter breaks.

Recommended: Do You Qualify for Home-Office Tax Deductions?

Choosing the Right Light

Making the most of natural light in the layout of a home office can cut down on eye strain and energy use, so it can help to create a workspace by a window.

But if a desk lamp will be on for much of the day, using energy-efficient bulbs instead of traditional incandescent bulbs could decrease the amount of energy the light will use by as much as 80%.

Because LED light bulbs produce less heat, they also may help cut costs associated with home cooling. And LEDs, halogens, and compact fluorescent lamps typically last longer than traditional bulbs.

Elsewhere Around the House

Working from home typically means more time spent using appliances; opening and closing doors; and running the air conditioner, fans, or the heater.

Many power companies offer free home energy assessments with a custom report that shows a home’s past and current power use and offers tips on how to save energy in the future.

For those who prefer to DIY their audit, the Environmental Protection Agency provides the Home Energy Yardstick , which compares a household’s actual energy use (based on a year’s worth of utility bills) to that of similar households.

There are also companies that, for a fee, will come and inspect a home’s energy usage . They will also report on areas where the home and its residents could be more energy efficient (though it may require changing some old behaviors).

Making Chores More Efficient

If the local utility company offers “time of use” pricing plans — charging less for power consumed during off-peak hours — it might be another opportunity to save.

Taking advantage of lower pricing may require breaking some old habits — running the dishwasher in the morning, for example, or doing laundry in the late evening — but the reward might be a lower utility bill as well as a healthier planet.

Running full loads in the clothes washer, dryer, and dishwasher can be another way to save. Tempting as it may be to run a load just to get a favorite pair of jeans clean, you’re much better off waiting till you can fill the washer.

💡 Quick Tip: If you’re faced with debt and wondering which kind to pay off first, it can be smart to prioritize high-interest debt first. For many people, this means their credit card debt; rates have recently been climbing into the double-digit range, so try to eliminate that ASAP.

Adjusting the Thermostat

One of the easiest ways to be more energy efficient is to set the thermostat up or down a degree or two to keep a home’s heating or air conditioning from running constantly.

The DOE advises consumers to set the thermostat to 78 degrees — or as high as is comfortable — when home in the summer.

In the winter, the DOE recommends setting the temperature at 68 degrees when everyone is awake and turning it down when they’re asleep or not at home. (Using a smart thermostat that can be operated from a smartphone can make it easier to manage adjustments.)

Getting Creative When Cooking

If eating at home more often is giving the oven a workout (and heating up the house in the summer), consider using the microwave, slow-cooker, or toaster oven to save on electricity and keep things cooler.

So can using the charcoal or gas grill out on the deck, and that might lend a party atmosphere to your regular dinner.

💡 Quick Tip: When you feel the urge to buy something that isn’t in your budget, try the 30-day rule. Make a note of the item in your calendar for 30 days into the future. When the date rolls around, there’s a good chance the “gotta have it” feeling will have subsided.

Keeping the Fridge Filled

A well-stocked freezer operates more efficiently than one that’s sitting half-empty, so feel free to load it up (but look for ways to save money on groceries when doing so). And, of course, if you are buying a new fridge, look for an Energy Star one.

Showering Responsibly

According to the DOE, about 18% of the energy consumed in the average home is from heating water. That means long, hot showers, or even standing at the sink shaving with the water running, can drive up energy bills. So can using the hot water setting on the washing machine or rinsing dishes in hot running water.

One option is to turn down the temperature on the water heater. That will help cut your energy bill when you’re working at home without impacting your comfort much at all. Shortening those showers (which can also help you save on water bills) and changing other habits, regardless of whether you are working from your kitchen table or an office, also can help conserve energy and save money. Extra points awarded to those who air-dry their hair or use the same bath towel more than once.

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The Takeaway

Whether this is a temporary situation or working from home becomes a regular thing, you may find you’ll have to rethink your budget to accommodate the changes to your lifestyle. While typically your energy bill may go up when you are spending more time at home (at your laptop and perhaps peeking in the fridge), it’s possible, with a little effort, to manage your power costs.

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