Did you know Oregon has one of the highest rates of remote workers in the country? What used to be a rarely received perk, or just for employees in certain industries, has become a normal way for tens of thousands to work. As we all remember, part of this shift was spurred by offices closing for in-person work early on in the pandemic.
While many people who temporarily shifted to working from home in those early days have gone back to the office at least part time, others are still plugging away at home.
The shift to working from home and telecommuting is welcomed by many. After all, what’s not to like about being in your own space, and getting to wear generally more comfortable clothing to work than before? But it also comes with unexpected rising costs associated with powering your home.
If you rent your power from the utility company, particularly if your home is heated using natural gas, rate hikes and rising prices in the last year have increased those costs even more.
Concerned about how working from home is resulting in higher electric bills? Keep reading as we cover some easy things you can do to save money when working from home. From shorter term habits that change with the season, to long-term shifts in how you power your home, you’re sure to find at least one easy option for reducing electricity associated costs.
How Work in Oregon Has Changed Since 2020
It’s true that people were working remotely and telecommuting prior to 2020. The difference is how many people went from working in offices to makeshift workspaces at kitchen tables, in guest rooms, and from chairs and sofas in living rooms. Even if you weren’t one of the people working at home in 2020 or now, you likely know someone who has made the shift.
Now, more than a year after that initial shift, some folks have returned to their offices while others remain at home. It seems like office workers having options for where they work has gained just a little more traction than before March of last year. In Oregon, some 18% of people are still working remotely, an amount that’s 5% higher than the national average.
As employers and employees continue to navigate through figuring out remote working options and standards, one that has seemingly already been decided is who pays for the extra electricity homeowners use when working from home. The argument often is that employees should pay because they save money by not commuting.
But add in the cost of paying for dirty energy from coal and natural gas power plants with rate hikes of 4% on average every year, and the savings you might expect when working from home start to chip away.
Do You Save or Spend More When Working from Home?
If you go the economical route of setting up a home office and simply use your kitchen table or purchase an old desk off Craigslist, then you might assume your only ongoing costs might be a slight increase in your electricity bill and on groceries due to those extra trips to the coffee maker.
Those costs must be easily offset by what you save on gas or other transportation costs because you no longer have to commute, right? It might surprise you to find out that the costs of working from home full-time aren’t so easily made up for by driving less.
As economists and other academics studied the way the sudden shift to remote work affected parts of our lives, they found homeowners were spending $600 more a year on their electricity bills than when they worked from an office. Those studies were done prior to Oregon seeing temperatures soar this past summer while stuck under a heat dome, and don’t account for the recent spike in costs for homeowners who heat their homes with natural gas.
But unlike other habits we have at home, we can’t just decide not to turn our computer on because our power bill got too high. Which means those of us who work from home, and can’t or don’t want to head back to working in an office, will need to make some adjustments to our energy usage.
Saving Money While Working From Home
If you’re living in a place like Bend, Oregon (the remote working capital of the United States) chances are you’re not excited about the prospect of trading in a cozy remote work setup to return to icy morning commutes.
But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with an electric bill that will continue inching up with every Zoom meeting and power company rate hike. There are some easy ways you can reduce unnecessary energy usage in your home and save money.
Exorcise Energy Sucking Appliances
Your TV, coffeemaker, chargers for phones and tablets, and other electronics in your home might be sucking power even when they seem to be turned off.
That sneaky use of electricity is called vampire power or a phantom load, and adds up quickly. To keep any number of home appliances from sucking your bank account dry is simple: unplug them when you’re not using them. This is made even easier if you keep appliances and devices stored near each other plugged into surge protectors you can turn off with a simple flick.
Do Dishes Less, Keep More Snacks on Hand, Save Money
There may be someone out there who loves doing the dishes, but for most of us it’s a dreaded chore. So you’ll likely be happy to hear that by delaying that chore, and only running your dishwasher when it’s really full means you’ll save money while avoiding the task.
Keeping your favorite snacks on hand can save you money in a roundabout way as well. When your freezer and fridge are fuller it means that they won’t have to work as hard or waste energy cooling an empty space. The items in your fridge and freezer help to insulate the space and regulate temperature.
Save Money While Winning the Remote Ugly Holiday Sweater Contest
Heating and cooling your house can cause your power bill to skyrocket, and are generally the most expensive part of anyone’s power bill. One of the perks of working from home is not having to fight twenty people for control of the thermostat. It’s not surprising we take full advantage of having our homes at the exact perfect temperature.
If you can stand it, lowering your thermostat just a touch in the winter and donning a cozy sweater can make a noticeable difference in your heating costs. Similarly, turning down the A/C just a little while turning on a ceiling fan to help circulate the cooled air will save on cooling costs in the summer.
Switch to High Efficiency Light Bulbs and Appliances
One of the easiest ways to save some cash is to switch out any old filament type light bulbs for LEDs. While they cost a bit more than traditional light bulbs, LED bulbs save the average homeowner more than $16 a month on their electric bill, which more than makes up for any upfront costs of purchasing a few new bulbs.
Want to see even more of an impact on your utility bill? Updating any old appliances, like your washer and dryer, for high efficiency models can save you hundreds of dollars a year. Homeowners who still use a mix of natural gas and electric appliances in their homes might want to consider going all electric.
An all electric home can reduce your bills and make for a safer home, and makes the most of your investment if you go solar.
Save Most with Solar
A long term, surprisingly affordable way to save money at home is working with a professional solar installer like Purelight Power to install rooftop solar panels. By generating your own clean energy right at home, you can stop renting your power from greedy utility companies that hike their rates up by 4% every year on average.
Instead, you own your power, which wipes out your power bill while raising the value of your home 3-5% on average.
While solar is definitely more of an investment than switching to LED light bulbs, the savings make up for it with the average home with solar saving $1,450 a year on power costs.
Want to find out if your roof qualifies for our zero down, nothing out of pocket program? All it takes is a quick 30 second survey!