mother working from home on sofa beside young son

Work, study, play and save energy at home

More time spent at home means higher energy use. Here’s how to stay comfortable and keep your energy costs in check.

In March this year, many Ontarians were asked to start working from home because of pandemic shutdowns. Statistics Canada reported that 40 percent of Canadian workers shifted to working from home this past spring. School closures also kept students at home.

While some workers are now returning to the office for a few days a week, others will continue to work from home for at least the next several months. So, with more of us – often whole families – spending our days at home, our energy use is going up. The good news is that there are simple ways to save on your energy costs.

Be mindful of what’s turned on and what’s plugged in

Electronics for home offices and for leisure account for more than 20 percent of the energy used in non-electrically heated homes, according to Natural Resources Canada.

So be aware of phantom power, particularly if you’re switching between work and play throughout the day. Watching a show or playing a video game during a break are great ways to relax – just remember not to leave gaming consoles or personal computers on when you’re not using them. 

Shutting your devices down fully, unplugging them and using smart power bars can all help you to avoid phantom power. At the end of your work day, turn everything off – this means computers, monitors, printers, chargers and any other devices you don’t need after working hours.

If you are able to set up a dedicated workspace in your home, try using task lighting, natural light and fans in just this area to stay focused and comfortable –  and avoid using energy in other areas of your home where it’s not needed while you’re working.

Your kitchen is also probably a lot busier these days, so unplug appliances such as microwaves and coffeemakers when they’re not being used, or plug them into smart power bars to reduce your energy use.

And if you’re planning to upgrade any electronics or appliances, always look for ENERGY STAR-certified products. This is even more important now that you’re spending more time at home.

Get smart about temperature

Heating and air conditioning are usually the biggest drivers of energy use in a home. Setting the temperature just a few degrees higher in the summer (or lower in the winter) can go a long way. In general, most people feel comfortable in a temperature range of 22 to 27 degrees Celsius and a relative humidity level of 40 to 60 percent.1 So put on shorts when it’s hot, or grab a sweater or a blanket to stay comfortable when it’s cold, rather than adjusting the temperature for your whole home.

A smart thermostat is a simple upgrade you can make to manage your home’s temperature more effectively, without having to think about it. You can even use sensors in different rooms to get more accurate temperature readings.

Using ceiling fans is another easy and cost-effective way to save on both cooling and heating costs. You can set the direction of the blade rotation depending on the season to feel cooler or warmer.

Keep up with maintenance and cleaning

More time spent at home means you’re likely noticing more mess, including dust. Change your furnace and air conditioner filters regularly (ideally once a month). In most cases, the filter is the same for both the furnace and air conditioning unit. Changing it is especially important if you’ve been doing renovation or repair work around the house, which can create more dust in the air.

In the laundry room, clear your dryer’s lint trap. Better yet, opt for a clothesline or a drying rack. They can even make your clothes last longer as an added bonus.

When you’re cleaning, don’t forget your refrigerator coils and the area under the fridge. Keeping these clean can help ensure your fridge and freezer work more efficiently.

If you feel as though the chores are piling up, here’s some relief. Using your dishwasher is actually more efficient than hand washing. This means you can go ahead and run your dishwasher to save time and energy in the kitchen.

Whether you’re at home all day, or just some of the time, simple changes can help you stay comfortable, make life a little easier, and may even lead to big energy savings.

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