Now that millions of Americans are isolated in their homes, everyone is using more energy during off-peak hours. Americans are getting more concerned with paying their growing electricity bills. Combined with the obvious environmental tolls of changing and increased at-home energy usage, paying a larger bill during times of economic uncertainty is enough to weigh on anyone’s heightened nerves. Inhabitat has rounded up some tips and tricks to help readers save energy (and money) at home during this time.
The good news is that energy usage outside the home is at a 16-year low in the United States. The novel coronavirus has caused a huge drop in energy consumption throughout the country since stay-at-home measures have been implemented. Entire businesses have shut down, and most industrial activity has come to a grinding halt. According to the World Economic Forum, the demand for electricity fell by 5.7% from the week of April 14, 2020 compared to the same week in 2019 — the lowest since 2004. The U.S. Energy Information Administration projected that the combination of this economic slowdown and ongoing stay-at-home orders would help further reduce electricity and natural gas consumption in the coming months as well. The administration expects power consumption in the country to decline by 3% in 2020 before rising 1% in 2021.
Still, while you are at home, you can further reduce energy consumption and minimize your energy bill by following these simple tips.
Utilize natural light and open windows
This pandemic is coming at a time of unpredictable spring weather. Some places around the country are beginning to warm up, but others are still feeling the effects of a longer winter with cold, rain and even snow. Something as simple as letting the light in during sunny days can not only raise your spirits but also lower your energy bill. If it is warm enough, open the windows to bring in fresh air. Even simply opening the blinds or curtains provides natural light, which is essential for working and your mental health. Daylighting also negates the need for artificial energy-using overhead lights or desk lamps.
Swap electronics for creative activities
It is easy to spend hours binging a new TV series or get sucked into playing video games when you’re stuck at home all day. Give your eyes a rest by swapping your nightly TV marathon for non-electrical activities such as reading, drawing or solving puzzles. It is no secret that our phones and computers are most people’s only link to the outside world right now, so start small with a couple of hours a day without electronics, adopt no-tech days or practice phone-free Sundays.
Check in with your thermostat
With more people staying at home 24/7, thermostats that are usually lowered or even switched off while everyone is normally at work or school are now running at higher capacities for longer amounts of time. Don’t forget to check in with yourself and adjust the thermostat accordingly. Fluctuations in temperature during this season mean that a smart thermostat could particularly come in handy, as it can learn your home’s heating and cooling patterns. Smart thermostats have the ability to adjust the temperature automatically instead of manually, so you will have a more optimal at-home climate as well as a reduced electricity bill.
Only plug in devices when needed
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, standby power from electronic devices accounts for about $100 of the average American’s electricity bill each year. If you’re working from home, chances are you’ve borrowed computers, printers, scanners or phones from your work office to make the transition to remote employment a bit easier. If you’ve become unemployed, you may be spending more time catching up on your favorite shows or surfing the internet, or maybe school closures have led to full-time homeschooling. Regardless, that means there are more devices plugged into your home’s outlets than there were a few months ago, and they are all consuming power even when they are not being used or are on standby.
Be mindful of unplugging as much as you can at the end of your remote work or school day. You might consider investing in a smart power strip or two around the house, which can help you pick and choose which items to keep on or make it easier to turn everything off when not in use.
Turn off the lights in unused rooms
This may seem obvious, but the simple act of turning off lights in empty rooms does wonders for your electricity bill. Switching off the lights whenever possible will extend the life of your lightbulbs, too. If you’re not used to hitting the light switch whenever you leave the room, take this time to be more mindful of it. It is good practice for the future!
Practice an energy-efficient laundry routine
Household appliances make up a massive portion of energy use in American households. Remember to wait until your washing machine or dishwasher is full before running it — your washer will use almost the same amount of energy no matter the size of the load. Wool dryer balls help separate clothes, absorb moisture cut drying time and reduce static (no need for dryer sheets). While using cold water in your washing machine saves the largest amount of energy, even using warm water instead of hot water can cut energy use in half. Plus, you will not only save energy, but also detergent, dish washing soap and time! If the weather is nice, consider hanging laundry on a line outside to dry.
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