In addition to forcing many people to get creative with their home workspace, the pandemic has also changed energy consumption patterns in the U.S. in ways that likely impact your bottom line. Specifically, some of the energy that used to be consumed in an office setting has been shifted home—including to yours if you or someone in your house now works or attends school from home.
Before the pandemic, the average home used 876 kilowatt hours of electricity each month. The usage pattern would look like this: It would spike as we woke up and got ready for work, then drop off during the day when no one was home, and peak again at night.
But now the rules have changed.
In 2020, residential electricity use rose later in the morning and stayed 16% higher than it was before the pandemic (commercial use dropped a similar amount). With so many of us working from home on a permanent basis, this pattern is likely to largely continue—so it’s literally worth it to find ways to save energy.
In good news, it’s Energy Efficiency Day and the Green Associate Resource Group (ARG) has you covered:
1. Measure first. It’s hard to reduce your energy usage when you don’t know how much you’re using. Some libraries allow you to check out an electricity monitor for free (we spotted programs in Maine, Denver, Colorado, Oregon, and Wisconsin, but there are probably many others). You can also DIY it with home monitors like Sense or the Lenovo Wi-Fi Smart Plug.
2. Slay energy vampires. Many devices—including pretty much every one that has a brick wall plug—continually drain energy. Get some smart plugs that turn the device off when you’re not using them. Another idea: Group devices you don’t use often onto the same power strip, so you can easily turn them off at once. Fun fact: The electricity to run a laptop costs about 20 cents a day (or $64.80 per year) so use power-saving modes and/or be sure to shut down at the end of your workday.
3. Chill your clothes. Most of the energy consumption from doing laundry comes from heating the water. If you wash on cold, you save. Relative to drying, it costs about 45 cents to dry a load of laundry so consider hanging clothes to dry. If that’s not an option, make sure your dryer’s lint screen is clean and, rather than using fabric softener, use some wool dryer balls. Not only will you save on the softener, but the agitation will help your dryer do its job more efficiently.
4. Be smart about heating and cooling. Your heating and cooling system accounts for about half of your home’s energy consumption. Look for air leaks by inspecting where all building materials meet—door and window frames, weather stripping, attic hatches, fireplace dampers, vents, etc. You could hire someone to come in and do an energy audit, but a DIY method is to light an incense stick and pass it around edges of common leak sites. Where the smoke wavers, or is sucked in or out of a room, there’s a draft so take action to plug them.
5. Light your way into savings. LED lights are popular for a reason—they don’t put off heat and they use a fraction of the energy incandescent use. By switching five of your home’s most frequently used bulbs with ENERGY STAR® certified LEDs, you could save $75 annually on energy costs.
TDS’ sustainability journey continues
Our parent company, Telephone & Data Systems, Inc. is continuing the enterprise’s sustainability journey. Adam, energy programs manager, has the TDS companies moving forward on a variety of cost savings energy efficiency opportunities. Leveraging utility programs and with the help of third-party firms, the companies are using solutions such as network infrastructure modernization, power system optimization, HVAC enhancements, renewable energy supply opportunities, and building management integration to pave a path forward in a greener fashion. In Wisconsin alone, through a partnership with Focus on Energy, the TDS family of companies could potentially save 7,258,805 kilowatt hours of energy every year, saving $732,994 of costs annually—enough to power 619 homes per year.