Spending a lot more time at home presents a multitude of challenges. With parents working from home, kids distance learning and all of us binge-watching streaming shows, many people are experiencing a spike in electricity usage. However, it’s not all bad news: “All around energy use has dropped, due to the 16% decrease in commercial energy usage,” says Jaclyn Saito of Hawaii Energy, “but for residents it’s the opposite, with about an 11% increase for residential energy usage.”

People who are now working from home offices instead of their old offices are footing energy costs that would have previously been covered by employers. And that can get expensive. Here’s how to make sure your home is as energy efficient as possible.

Start Small

For those not looking to invest in major overhauls, there are plenty of smaller changes that can make the adjustment easier. “We very much encourage starting with simple things like switching bulbs to LEDs, limiting AC usage and taking shorter showers – all of these can make a big impact with little to no cost involved,” says Saito.

Improving your workspace is a great way to start small. Go for natural lighting

whenever possible; not only does it keep electric lights from being on all day, but it’s also better for your productivity and mental health. Watch the hours you work — home can come with a lot of distractions, and you don’t want those to extend your working hours. Doing so won’t just take away from family and personal time, but also means that your lights, computer and office equipment are going to be running for that much longer — and you may now have more office equipment than you used to. If you’re powering a printer or scanner from home, make sure they aren’t using power when not in use. Switch off power strips or unplug devices when they aren’t necessary.

Big Changes, Big Impact

Big, whole-house changes can do wonders toward reducing an electric bill. Switching to a solar water heater can cut your costs by up to 40%. Heat pump water heaters are another good option — they’re “two to three times more efficient than conventional electric water heaters,” says Saito. Upgrading to Energy Star devices is another substantial energy-saving thing to do; for example, Energy Star humidifiers are nearly 30% more efficient than older models. For those balking at the cost of switching out big appliances, Hawaii Energy offers rebates to encourage energy-conscious living.

Energy-Efficient Distance Learning

These ideas can also carry over outside your home office. Tips for an efficient workplace, for example, likely also apply to your kids’ online classes. It’s also worth switching off strips controlling game consoles and entertainment electronics when not in use, and maximizing natural light is a good idea everywhere in the home.

Keep Cool – and Keep Costs Down

How you’re cooling your house is another major consideration. “Especially given the hotter temperatures now, we’re anticipating higher electric bills with ACs and fans being used more often and for longer periods,” Saito says. Don’t leave your AC blasting all night — if fans or breezes aren’t an option, use the timer function to make sure you don’t waste power. During the day, follow common-sense tips like closing windows and doors, and do your best to use trade winds instead of artificial cooling.

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