Fluctuations in electricity bills are usually the result of changes in outdoor temperatures. Power bills are typically lowest during the milder spring and fall months when air conditioners or heaters don’t have to run.
But with people spending more time at home due to COVID-19, U.S. households likely saw electricity bills climb 10- 15% higher than usual, according to data from clean energy technology firm Arcadia.
It should come as little surprise that most of the additional electrical cost is not solely because people are spending more time at home, but also due to the higher cost of peak daytime energy consumption. Not to mention the costs of running computers and electronic devices all day for work and school.
Experts predict remote work and learning will continue well into 2021. So, we can expect this increased expenditure to stick around for a while. Some science and medical experts go as far as to say there may be a need to social distance and work remotely into 2022.
Reduced commuting costs may counter the electric bill increase, but that doesn’t mean we can’t curb increased power usage to lower our bills.
Here are some simple ways to reduce your energy consumption and reduce your electric bill:
- Shop around and negotiate with power providers. If you live in Maryland, it is a deregulated market so, if you haven’t already, you should shop around to find the cheapest rate offered. The default rate that you’re paying is probably not the lowest rate available. After seeing what’s out there, you can either switch to a new company or use that knowledge as leverage to negotiate with your current power provider.
- Use installment plans or bill relief programs. Beyond contacting your electric company, there are other places to find energy bill relief. The government offers a Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) intended for people who need temporary help with their heating and cooling energy costs. There are also other pandemic-related relief efforts designed to help families experiencing financial hardship.
- Power off computers. Computers are some of the biggest energy users. While in use, reducing the screen brightness uses less energy. Turn your monitor off at night and ditch the screensaver. Better yet, turn computers completely off when not in use. Today’s computers can be turned on and off over 40,000 times.
- Choose the right light. LED bulbs are the most energy efficient lighting option, using about 75% less electricity than incandescent bulbs. They also have no mercury, and last about 25 times longer than traditional incandescent bulbs.
- Turn off the lights and TVs when you leave a room. Also, consider lowering the brightness on the TV screen.
- Unplug idle electronics. Devices like televisions, microwaves, toasters, coffee machines, and printers use standby power even when off. Also, some chargers continue to pull small amounts of energy when plugged in, called “vampire power.” Test this by confirming if a charger feels warm to the touch. In the U.S., the total electricity consumed by idle electronics equals the annual output of 12 power plants.
- Use power strips to reduce your plug load. Prevent phantom energy loss by using power strips to turn off several devices at once. Flipping the switch on a power strip has the same effect as unplugging each socket from the wall.
- Lower the thermostat this winter. This creates a perfect opportunity to get some use out of the sweaters in your closet.
- Consider replacing older appliances with Energy Star certified ones. Over time these purchases save money, experts say. Turns out your parents were spot on when they told you to stop opening the fridge door; it uses more power to cool down after you let the cold air out.
- Insulate your attic. This will save you money on energy bills and the cost of installation will pay for itself over a relatively short time.
- Draft-proof your doors and windows. Door weather-stripping and window seal are fairly inexpensive purchases.
Resources: News.maryland.gov, Arcadia.com, Green.harvard.edu, Energysage.com, Energy.gov, Benefits.gov, Epa.gov