Remote work has become the new norm. Even when it’s safe to start congregating in offices again, many employers and employees might elect to keep the working from home arrangement. Who will be able to continue to work from home and how lasting this change will be, remains to be seen. For the time being, it’s worth looking at the ways we can save energy while working at home.
In a lot of ways, working at home is inherently green; reduced carbon emissions from vehicle travel have already begun to transform our landscapes. There are, however, a number of steps you may have taken to reduce your carbon footprint that relied on you going to work. Many of us turn down the heat or air conditioning while we’re at work in order to save energy. We might also turn off all the lights, turn off our computers, and generally disconnect the household. These options are more limited when working at home, but there’s still a lot you can do.
You, the Vampire Slayer
You might find yourself with a bit of extra time on your hands when working at home – why not pick up a new career as a vampire slayer? “Vampires are mythological creatures that don’t really exist” we hear you saying, “And even if they did exist, I’m not qualified to enter into hand-to-hand combat with creatures of the night!”. Don’t fret, we don’t mean literal vampires. We’re talking about vampire power, also known as standby power:
Basically, there are a bunch of electronics in your home that are using power even when they’re not doing anything useful. That microwave clock you never bothered to change for Daylight Savings Time? It’s sucking up power. Your TV is waiting for a signal from your remote control to turn on – that takes power.
Vampire power is easy to slay. Get power bars you can turn on and off, and turn them off when not in use. You can also get timed power bars that turn off automatically. Working from home or away from home, you can help rid the world of vampires.
Optimizing Your Home Setup
Let’s start with your computer. Whether you’re using a laptop or a big computer, you should use power management. Power management is available for Mac and PC; here’s a step-by-step guide by Energy Star on how to turn on power management. Power management settings usually affect your display – dimming it, turning it off, and putting your computer into sleep mode after certain periods of time. Dimming your display overall can also help you save power and electricity.
You’ll want to turn off your computer when not in use; optimally, unplug it, or turn off the power bar it’s attached to (slay those vampires). You’ll also want to unplug any devices that aren’t in use on your computer. Avoid running too many programs simultaneously; you can use task management software to find out what’s using the most energy.
Try to keep your ambient lights off; those of you with big windows can use the sun as ambient light, an opportunity that’s not afforded in many offices. When natural sunlight isn’t doing the trick, use your ambient lighting, but be sure to use high-efficiency CFLs. Where you can, use task lighting with high-efficiency bulbs to read and write; this will reduce the amount you need to rely on other sources of lighting.
Working from home means you’re probably going to use a lot more energy on heating and cooling than you would otherwise. There are a few ways of lessening your costs. First, change how you dress in order to keep your body temperature comfortable. Instead of cranking up the heat, opt for sweaters and slippers. Instead of blasting cold air, dress down and open a window.
You might benefit from a tune-up on your air conditioning and furnace. Prepare your AC unit for spring by getting rid of any leaves that might be clogging up the works. You can call a professional to do a thorough cleaning for you if you’re a bit nervous about doing it yourself. Make sure your furnace is working at optimal efficiency by using proper filters and changing them regularly.
Smart thermometers can track exactly how much power you’re using in order to heat or cool your home. Use this data to inform your decisions. You might find that reducing or increasing the temperature by one or two degrees can lead to a lot of annual savings.
Make Like Tim Allen
…and get to work on home improvement. While large scale projects like remodels might not be appropriate while you’re working at home, you can make a few modifications to improve your home’s efficiency. You might be cooking at home more often; get a more efficient oven. You’re going to be using a lot more hot water washing your hands constantly; replace your water heater with a more efficient model. Feeling particularly ambitious? You might engage in some insulating projects around your property. The easiest of these is to weather strip doors and windows. You might go so far as to re-insulate your attic and basement; you can usually do these with minimal disruption to your home and work.