Utility bills are spiking this much due to remote work (here’s how to keep yours down)

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot of things. While you might be most upset that your favorite bar is closed, or that your summer trip was canceled, most people have one major thing in common: they have been spending a lot more time than usual in their home.

While your time at home might have blossomed new hobbies or increased appreciation for your partner, chances are it also has had one negative effect that you may have not thought about. Due to working from home, and staying home more often in general, people across the country are seeing higher monthly utility bills. Arcadia, a tech platform aiming to make clean energy accessible nationwide, estimates that one-third of Americans will see a 10 to 15% increase in their utility bill this summer.

Utility bills are increasing because of remote work

Arcadia found that the top 13 metro areas across the US can expect to see utility bill increases from energy use ranging anywhere from $2 to $37 per month.

For this report, Arcadia looked at a year of historical energy bill data from about 10,000 members across 13 of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. The company then compared usage rates and energy bill totals before and after lockdowns began, factoring in average weather fluctuations for each city.

The cities slated to see the highest increases in utility bill prices are located on the East Coast: Philadelphia, New York City, Boston, and Washington, D.C. top the list.

Take a look at the expected summer bill increase by city:

  • Philidelphia: $37
  • New York City: $34
  • Boston: $27
  • Washington, D.C.: $19
  • Los Angeles: $17
  • San Francisco: $8
  • Riverside: $8
  • Seattle: $2

Like commuter benefits, companies may start to investigate ways in which they can subsidize utility bills as their employees continue to work from their homes.

How to save money on your utility bill this summer

If you think your utility bill will likely be higher this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic, take a look at ways in which you can work to keep your at-home energy use down.

How to work from home without raising your utility bill:

1. Unplug your “vampire sources”

“Vampire sources” are electronics that always stay plugged in, and your home office probably has a lot of them. While your computer, monitor, and printer may only draw a small amount of energy at once, it can all add up on your utility bill over time. According to Arcadia, vampire sources can add $60 per year in energy costs.

Thankfully there’s an easy solution to this issue –just unplug the devices when you’re not using them.

2. Use smart power strips

If you don’t think you’ll remember to unplug devices when you’re not using them, you can use a smart power strip, which turns off the energy flow to devices that are on standby mode.

3. Take advantage of natural light

Doing your work in an area with lots of natural light can eliminate the need to turn on additional lights in your house.

If you do need some artificial light, using task lighting rather than overhead lighting will help save energy.

4. Use energy-efficient office equipment

Energy-efficient office equipment can help you save money on your utility bill by using way less energy. Office equipment that is ENERFY STAR-certified can use about half the energy that standard office equipment does.

Keep in mind that laptops also use less electricity than desktop computers. You should check out your computer’s built-in setting for energy efficiency to save even more.

How you can keep your energy bill down around your house:

1. Be mindful about how you do laundry

Doing laundry requires a lot of energy, both from you and from your appliances. If you’re careful about how you use your washer and dryer, you can shave a bit off your energy bill. When possible, you should try to use cooler settings on your washer machine because 80 to 90% of the energy that it uses goes to actually heating the water.

You can also save big by cutting out using the dryer altogether. When possible, hang dry your clothing. Not only does tumble drying use a lot of energy, but it also heats up your home, meaning it’s working against the air conditioning. One quick trick when you need o use the dryer for your clothes is to toss a clean, dry towel in with them. It will pull away excess moisture from clothing and shorten the drying time.

2. Watch how much hot water you use

Heating the water throughout your home takes a lot of energy. According to Arcadia, water heating accounts for 17% of your home’s electricity use, and unfortunately, the Department of Energy estimates that 80 to 90% of this energy ends up going down the drain.

So when you shower, be more conscious of how long you let the water run. Reducing the temperature can also go a long way.

3. Cover your windows

You want to wait as long as possible to turn your air conditioner on, and use open windows at night to cool the house down.

When the heat becomes unbearable and A/C turns on, that doesn’t mean you should forget about your windows. You should try to keep your blinds closed during the hottest hours of the day, so between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Make sure to keep the windows and doors closed when the air conditioning is on –there’s no need to try to cool the great outdoors.

4. Be mindful about what and when you cook

Cooking can quickly heat your house up, making you run to turn the air conditioner up even higher. Being mindful about how and when you use certain appliances can help you keep the kitchen cool.

Making “cold” meals like salads won’t require any heat to put together. You can also be sure to heat things up in the microwave, rather when the stove, if possible. If you have a grill, taking cooking outside is a great way to keep the kitchen cool.

If you do need to use the oven, you should save that for the coolest parts of the day, like the early morning or late evening.

5. Give your air conditioner some attention 

Air conditioning is a big energy sucker in the summer, so it’s important to make sure it’s running effectively and efficiently.

You should check the A/C filter for dust or debris, as a buildup can require more energy for the same amount of cooling. As a general rule of thumb, you should change your filter every three months.

6. Invest in LED lightbulbs

Using energy-efficient appliances is a great way to make your home greener and keep your energy bill down. LED light bulbs last at least 50 times longer than normal bulbs and only use 25% of the energy. As a bonus, these bulbs don’t give off as much heat as traditional bulbs, which will help to keep your house cooler.

Jennifer Fabiano is an SEO reporter at Ladders.