How to stop COVID-19 from hiking up your energy bill
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Flatten the curve

How to stop COVID-19 from hiking up your energy bill

Katie Overmonds
March 27, 2020

In what feels like the blink of an eye, the world as we know it has … shifted. The ways in which we engage with our communities, our families, our work and our natural world have been changed and alongside those changes that we notice, come some that we may not … like a steady creep in our home energy costs! 

Here at OhmConnect, we geek out on energy data and were keen to see what things looked like in the wake of COVID-19 on a home energy front. We took a quick look at peoples’ energy use to see how things look now in comparison to the norm of just a couple weeks ago. 

Check out what we found:

A breakdown of the components of your energy bill.

What are we seeing and what does it mean for your bill? 

The most noteworthy observation here is that the ‘water level’ has risen; the amount of energy we’re all using in our homes has a similar distribution to the pre-COVID state but is higher across the board (which makes sense, since so many people are at home all the time.) 

Interestingly, we can also see a heightened spike in the evening. Typically (pre-COVID), there’s a huge spike in energy consumption in the evenings as folks get home from work and rev up their homes with lights turned on, kitchens fired up and electronics engaged. It definitely seems like those trends are continuing! 

The bad news? Increased demand across the board coupled with heightened spikes during peak hours is the perfect cocktail for sticker shock at the end of the month when you receive your energy bill

So how can we keep energy costs low while we shelter in place? 

By staying home and keeping these energy-saving tips in mind, you can help “flatten the curve” not only for the COVID-19 coronavirus but the energy industry’s “duck curve” as well - bringing energy costs down for you and everyone around you. 

  1. Use energy when it’s cleanest. Although you might think that more energy usage is always going to be a bad thing for the grid and the planet, this isn’t necessarily the case and the reason for that is timing. Energy used during the daylight hours is cleaner and less expensive than energy used in the evening because it comes from renewable sources like solar and wind. Why not use that afternoon lull when you might normally chat to a coworker to throw in a load of laundry? 
  1. Stay in one place - even at home. Moving from room to room while you work is an easy habit to form. Try setting up a dedicated workspace, so you can limit how much power you're using in otherwise empty rooms. For example, avoid keeping the TV on in another room for background noise. Not only will you save energy, but you'll probably concentrate a little better too!
  1. Keep the temperature cool for energy efficiency purposes, and work efficiency too! Lower the thermostat a couple degrees. Some studies show productivity varies from person to person depending on the temperature of the room so find the zone that works best for you.
  1. Be efficient with your lighting. You’ll give your energy bill a break and reap the mental health rewards if you take advantage of natural light during the day instead of relying on overhead lights. Letting the sunshine in can help warm your home naturally during the winter, so you can limit how much you need to turn up the heat. During warmer months though, keep your shades drawn so you can keep the whole house cooler. When you do need to rely on lights, set up task lighting, such as a desk lamp or reading lamp, rather than an overhead ceiling light for a whole room.
  1. Be the boss of your tech. Missing the team you used to manage at work? Consider yourself promoted - to the manager of your home’s tech. Consider setting up a charging station with a smart power strip, so you can limit charging time and phantom power (the energy a device uses when it's in standby mode). 
  1. And help your kids be the boss of theirs. With school out of session for the foreseeable future and many kids looking to e-learning options, there are a whole lot of laptops and tablets being fired up that used to sit dormant during the day. If you or your kids are working on a laptop, use the battery during the day and charge it later during off-peak hours. Cycling a battery is good for it, and keeping a laptop plugged in when it's fully charged could reduce its life. More modern laptops do manage this for you where their batteries stop receiving "juice" from the wall outlet when they've reached their maximum charge level. Also, check your laptop to ensure you're optimizing its power and battery saving features. If you have other devices that you only use occasionally, like a printer or scanner, keep them unplugged or on power bars to reduce phantom power.

With these tips and our collective action, we may be able to “flatten the curve” in more ways than one.

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