I am lucky enough to be able to work from my home one or two days per week. I always enjoy these days; not only do I avoid my stressful commute, but I always get a lot of work done without the regular distractions of the office. More offices are allowing their workers this kind of flexibility, but it can present some challenges when it comes to saving energy and keeping your costs down.
There are clear energy-saving advantages to working from home—avoiding a commute and saving fuel being the biggest—but working at home also means that you may be using MORE energy at home than you would otherwise. This is simply because you're there, running the heat (in the winter) and using electricity. But there are a few things you can do to minimize your energy use while working at home.
- Open the blinds.
Although we try, many of the mornings when we're rushing off to work, my husband and I simply forget to open the blinds in the winter to let in the sun. It's easy to forget when you leave the house in the dark and cold, but I always remember when I'm home and realize that it's sunny.
When you're out of the house, you likely have the thermostat set to a low temperature. It may be uncomfortable to be in the house during the day with your regular low setting, so the sun's natural heat will help your home comfortable and minimize how often the heat kicks on during the day.
Also don't forget to open the blinds in your office or wherever you're working, even if it doesn't get direct sunlight. The natural daylighting is great for working and you won't have to turn on any overhead lights or desk lamps. If you're not lucky enough to have a window at the office, take advantage of being home and sit near one!
- Grab a blanket.
No, don't head for the couch and take a nap. That's not what working at home means. But it is often an opportunity to dress a little less formally and do things you might not do at the office—like wear a sweatshirt and throw a blanket over your lap. My home office tends to be a little cooler than the rest of the house anyway, so a blanket on my lap ensures that I'm comfortable without cranking up the heat.
I don't recommend a robe and bunny slippers, but hey, as long as you get your work done, who am I to judge?
- Use a smart power strip.
If you're working at home, it's very likely that you're working on a computer. But it may not just be your computer. Maybe you have a printer, scanner, phone (or charger), FAX machine, monitor, modem, router, and who knows what other electronics. Smart power strips ensure these devices aren't drawing power when they're not in use, while giving you the option to keep a few devices "always on."
These are just a few ideas I've had for saving energy while I work at home, but I'd love to hear more. Also, my tips mostly apply to winter because it's been cold and snowy almost everywhere in the U.S. lately, but please share if you have ideas for the summer! How do you keep the energy use down when you work at home?
Allison Casey is a senior communicator at DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which assists EERE in providing technical content for many of its Web sites.