Take a minute now to thank Congress for passing the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

energy usage

3 Strategies to Save Energy While Sheltering in Place

By Tanya Svoboda
April 2020

It’s been a while since many large cities across America issued shelter-in-place orders in response to the spread of COVID-19 – causing schools and businesses to shut their doors and turn off their lights. When the lights go off in the city, overall energy use drops. And, while environmentally this may be a positive change, it could lead to homeowners absorbing the deficit.

The article Utilities Beginning to See the Load Impacts of COVID-19 as Economic Shutdown Widens cites a blog post from ISO New England, which said it has witnessed a decline in system demand of approximately 3% to 5%, compared to typical conditions during this time of year. James Newcomb, managing director of emerging solutions at Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) suggests, “Utilities may ask regulators for increased cost recovery through rate increases in the future as a result.”

Meanwhile, all across America, people are spending more time in their homes due to shelter in place orders and social distancing regulations. So what can we, as homeowners, do to limit our energy usage in our homes during this unprecedented time, especially on the edge of a possible rate increase? Here are three strategies for saving energy while sheltering in place.

1. Work smarter

The beauty of working and learning from home is the flexibility it affords you. Try structuring your day so that activities requiring a lot of energy usage (multiple kids and adults on computers, laundry, etc.) do not occur during peak energy periods. Check your energy provider’s website to find out when peak times are near you.

Also take into consideration how, and when, you’re heating and cooling your home. In the USA Today article Working From Home: Save on Energy by Paying Attention to Greedy Appliances Mike Feibus says, “If your peak period starts in the afternoon like ours, we found that chilling the house in the summer for a couple hours beforehand makes it easier to keep it cool during the premium-priced time.”

2. Make smart lighting choices

Open up those shades, toss back the curtains, and let the sunshine in. The smartest way to save energy on lighting is not to use it at all. Positioning your desk or workspace in a room that receives great natural light will allow you to work for longer without any artificial lights. Plus, natural lighting in your work space has benefits beyond saving energy, including better sleep and increased productivity.

If your home is lacking in natural light, the next best thing you can do is replace all of your incandescent lights with LEDs. Incandescent bulbs can use up to 70% more energy than LEDs. To save even more energy, use task lighting like lamps, instead of whole room lighting like ceiling lights.

3. Eliminate phantom energy users

“Consumer electronics and common devices can account for 23% of the average electricity bill—or about $322 annually,” according to Sense, a company that offers home energy monitoring solutions. Start by unplugging your coffee maker and phone chargers when they’re not in use.

A great tool to help you keep phantom energy users from making your energy bill creep up is an advanced power strip (APS). An APS works like a regular surge protector but allows you to set one device as a “control.” This means if you turn your TV off, your stereo and video game console (or any other devices connected to the APS) will shut off as well. Hooking up all your home office and home learning electronics to one APS will make it easy for you, or your kids, to shut everything down when it’s not in use.

In the midst of such uncertain times, with job security up in the air and the future of the economy unclear, it is smart to save money where you can. Simple adjustments to how we use energy in our homes while we work, learn, and live there may pay off in the future.


Related Stories