Spending More Time at Home? Some Tips to Reduce Energy Use
As we’re all well aware at this point, the coronavirus pandemic has given rise to a revolution in the area of remote work, in that millions more people are working remotely than six months ago. There are also many more students taking lessons at home, and just regular folks of every stripe minimizing their risks by spending more time at home.
For some workers and organizations, one of the upsides has been the success they’ve had with remote work, and a lot of these will likely continue in the remote working modality even after the pandemic subsides. Initiating remote work has saved businesses a great deal of money—but it’s driven up the utility bills of millions of remote workers to a significant degree.
An Overnight Revolution
According to Forbes, changes in internet traffic and the attendant energy usage at the outset was pretty striking. In the last weeks of March, telework and residential internet usage soared by 40%, when the lion’s share of internet traffic became Facebook, YouTube, and Netflix. Before COVID-19, around 24% of 165 million U.S. workers worked from home, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This trend had been steady over the last decade, but coronavirus isolation has raised that figure dramatically.
Following this up with a fairly hot Summer and isolation that’s continuing into Fall, and consumers are continuing to see higher energy bills. According to Baltimore Gas and Electric, between March and June of this year, residential electric rose 8%, and residential gas was up 4%. At the same time, commercial and industrial electricity and gas fell 10% and 8%, respectively.
So, with more people working from home and more staying at home, many have gotten serious about finding ways to reduce their energy consumption, and in turn, their energy bills.
Getting a Handle on Consumption
Amanda Janaskie, manager of BGE’s behavioral energy efficiency program, recently offered some tips for how their customers can strategically reduce their consumption. “There are things you can do year-round like replacing bulbs with LEDs,” Janaskie says. “By replacing your home’s five most frequently used light fixtures or bulbs with models that have earned the ENERGY STAR, you can save $75 each year.” Inexpensive upgrades like advanced power strips can save residential customers an additional $100 a year.
In the warmer months, energy consumers can take advantage of extra cost-cutting measures, starting with their thermostats. Janaskie advises raising these to around 75 degrees or higher. Keeping blinds and curtains closed keeps sunlight from generating indoor heat, and keeps air conditioning units from working as hard, thereby increasing electricity savings.
Ceiling fans have been a reliable way to keep uniform temperatures throughout rooms; where there are also A/C units, ceiling fans can also reduce how hard these have to work. Smart thermostats can also help consumers qualify for rebates, as well as seeing instant savings. A smart thermostat “can help you change the set points of your thermostat throughout the day, so again you don’t have to remember to turn it up or turn it down,” said Janaskie.
In May, BGE launched its Connected Rewards program, which allows BGE to make small adjustments to their customers’ smart thermostats during times of peak electric demand. This is of significant value during the summer months when electricity demand is high. As our “New Normal” becomes more, well, normalized, it is likely that more utilities and energy providers across the U.S. will begin offering similar programs, and will continue to prioritize energy savings for millions of customers who now have a pretty big dog in the energy savings fight.