How to save on power when working from home this summer
Eight simple ways to keep power costs down when working from home.
While we may not miss the daily rush-hour commute, many Victorians working from home this summer will likely yearn for the cool comfort of the office air-conditioner as temperatures soar.
As the term “hot desk” takes on a new meaning in the home office this summer, it will be all too tempting to dial-up the air-conditioner during the day. And that means big power bills, on top of the extra cost of keeping the lights on and the computer whirring from nine to five.
Household power bills were already up 10 to 30 per cent as people hunkered down at home all day during winter and, with air-conditioning accounting for up to 40 per cent of home electricity costs over summer, there’s little relief in sight.
But it is possible to stay cool and keep power costs down over summer, even when you’re home all day. It’s an ideal time to think about rooftop solar, especially since the state government has pledged to provide an additional 42,000 rebates for home solar systems over the next two years. By nature, solar generates maximum power in summer and during the day – just when home workers will likely be wanting to dial up the air-conditioning. But there are several other simple ways to avoid summer bill shock, too.
Eight ways to save power when you're working from home
Harness the sun
RACV Solar chief executive, Andy McCarthy says you can run home air-conditioning during the day without busting the household budget when you draw down on your own solar power-generated energy.
“Solar systems generate the most energy in summer and for an average home this can result in electricity savings of 30 to 60 per cent, amounting to a saving of several hundred dollars on your power bill,” he says.
“An average three or four-bedroom Victorian household with a typical 6.6kW solar system saves $400 to $700 across the peak summer months of December to February alone – provided it’s a good-quality system – and over the entire year could mean $1500 or more in energy savings.”
An added bonus of solar is that the panels themselves act as insulation that helps shade and cool your home in summer, and retain heat in winter.
Turn off standby mode
Ever noticed the little light that stays on at the bottom of your monitor, even when you’ve turned your computer off? That means the device is in standby mode and is still using energy. Turn off the switch at the wall to ensure power isn’t being drained.
Use energy-efficient light bulbs and lamps
Energy-efficient light bulbs both save power and last longer. If you don't need bright lighting to do your work, try using a desk lamp to help reduce your energy bills.
Use energy-efficient equipment
Buy computers and monitors that comply with Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS), and choose a printer that comes with no/low standby mode. Consider using a laptop instead of a desktop computer. They use as much as 80 per cent less energy because they're designed to run without a constant power source.
The federal government’s energy rating website compares energy efficiency of various appliance models and reveals appliances' annual energy use. There’s also a wealth of tools and calculators to help consumers save on energy.
Keep the heat out
If you’re not generating your own power through solar, minimising power bills will mean keeping the power-hungry air-conditioner switched off or running low during the day.
An electric fan is a more energy-efficient alternative and you can point it directly at your home office chair to keep yourself cool, without labouring to chill rooms you’re not using.
Good insulation, shading windows and sealing gaps that might let in heat will also help keep the inside temperature down. Sustainability Victoria says insulation can help reduce heating and cooling costs by as much as 50 per cent a year.
Windows are a significant source of heat for your home on a hot day. The bigger the window, the more heat it lets in, and windows facing north, west and east should be shaded.
Outdoor window awnings, blinds and shutters are an effective way to keep your home cool as they stop heat from reaching the glass. Interior blinds and curtains will also help.
RACV head of Home Trades and Services Kieran Davies says trees can also help shade windows. “Use smart landscaping with deciduous trees that have a summer canopy to shade your house in summer and lose leaves in winter to allow the light in.”
Sealing gaps and cracks around windows, doors and vents will also help keep the hot air out in summer and cold air in in winter. Watch this tutorial from RACV's Handy Andy for DIY tips on how to seal door gaps.
The government’s Victorian Energy Upgrades program provides cash rebates to help cover the cost of draught proofing your home.
Look for tax breaks
Depending on what type of work you do, a percentage of your energy bill may be tax deductible. Do your research and talk to your accountant to find out what you're entitled to.
Control your air-con
If you do need to use the air-conditioner, don’t set it for an Artic blast, says Kieran. “Just set it for say eight degrees lower than the outside temperature. Even on scorching days you will still feel comfortable inside without breaking the bank.”
He warns that for each degree lower you set your thermostat, you add 10 per cent to the running costs, which could mount to hundreds of dollars over a long hot summer.
And if you’re running a clunky old inefficient air conditioner or refrigerative cooling system, now is a good time to consider upgrading to a money saving, energy efficient model. The government has just announced $14 million worth of additional rebates through the Victorian Energy Upgrades program to help people switch to power saving appliances.
Shop around for a better energy deal
Even with the utmost of care, if you’re home all day with the lights on, the computer whirring and an electric fan directed at your desk, you’re likely to be using more power than when you're out at the office all day. So if you’re not creating your own power through a rooftop solar system, it pays to shop around for the best price. Australian Energy Foundation chief executive, Alison Rowe says householders can save hundreds of dollars on power bills by comparing retailers for the best energy deal. “Comparing takes 10 minutes and all you need is a copy of your latest bill,” she says. “Switching retailers can save you up to $330 a year.”
She recommends reviewing your power deal and retailer every one to two years and suggests using the state government’s energy compare website.
Summer energy-saving tips at a glance
The Australian Energy Foundation’s Alison Rowe offers six tips for lowering power bills over summer.
- Go solar: With government incentives, solar units pay for themselves in several years while cutting annual power costs by 30 to 60 per cent using energy you produce during daylight.
- Switch to split-system air-conditioning: Ducted air-conditioning can cost you $100 to $300 more over summer compared with energy-efficient split-system air systems.
- Only cool where you are: Don’t cool unoccupied areas. Choose a smart cooling unit with room sensors that will recognise when you’re in the room.
- Close doors and windows: Many people forget the basics. Close a door on heat and cover your windows.
- Check your standby power: Always switch appliances off at the wall, otherwise they are an ongoing power drain. Home-office users are often guilty of leaving devices like computers and printers on standby, costing them a residual power use.
- Lighting: Upgrade old lights to LEDs which use 75 per cent less energy than old units and last up to 10 times longer.