Working from home has become the norm for thousands of Kiwis in 2020. Many businesses have seen the advantages remote working can have for staff; better work-life balance and the ability to focus quietly on work for starters! For many, breaking up the work week between the workplace and home offers the best of both worlds – socialising and collaboration part of the week, and then some serious head-down work at home.
But with all this extra time spent at home working comes additional considerations – one of which is the increased power bill. Before working from home became the norm, your home may have enjoyed 8+ hours in the daytime with very little power demand outside of maintaining appliances (like the fridge). Now, you find yourself cooking, cleaning and using technology all day. Have you noticed the difference in your power bill?
Today we’ll look at some elements of working from home that impact power usage and offer some tips that might keep these activities under control.
The home office – bringing tech costs home
Lots of Kiwis are investing in a proper home working set-up, beyond just bringing a work laptop home. As ‘WFH’ becomes part of the standard work week, we’re buying monitors, printers, scanners and desktop computers. A desktop has more power-hungry components than a laptop and will probably be driving a larger screen, too. If you’re doing computer-intensive work (like creative production or working with big data sets) you might hear the fans kicking in or feel the unit heating up – our usage of the computer will have a knock on effect on the power used.
The computer monitor’s power draw will depend on how long your work day is, how large the panel is and whether you switch it off when not in use. Most modern LED/LCD monitors should be fairly energy efficient, but it’s worth checking the specs of the screen to make sure.
For households with multiple people at home working, it doesn’t take long for the power consumption of computers to mount up. You can reduce this by keeping the computer powered down when not in use – especially overnight where even in a standby/idle state a plugged-in computer will draw power.
Remote working can also require more phone calls and video chats on your smartphone to stay connected with coworkers or customers. This means more charging of devices. The good news – smartphones are usually efficient to charge with smaller lithium-ion batteries, so unless you have a great number of phones and tablets charging at once, you’re unlikely to feel the pinch too much here.
Staying at home during that additional 8-10 hours in the day when you’d otherwise be travelling to/from work or at the workplace, you’ll probably be using more lighting. On bright sunny days you might get away with no lighting if your workspace enjoys enough natural light without glare. But on cloudy days or in spaces that are naturally darker, you will be switching on lamps and fixed lighting. The power draw of lighting is going to come down to how many bulbs there are and how efficient your lighting is.
For older homes with less-than-stellar wiring and older incandescent bulbs, lighting power draw all day might start to affect your electricity costs noticeably. If you have the option, consider changing out incandescent lighting with LED-based bulbs. Not only will you enjoy the efficiency, but these bulbs can provide better, more natural lighting.
Some people prefer a standalone lamp. It’s worth checking the energy consumption of these lamps to make sure you’re not adding unnecessary costs to your power bill. And hey, there might be that option of moving to a space in the house with more natural light!
Heating the workspace
Here’s where energy costs can really ramp up. All that heating at the workplace? Now that becomes your responsibility (cost), unless you have an arrangement with your employer to get reimbursed. Working at home during the winter, you’ll want a comfortable workspace temperature that lets you concentrate on the task at hand.
As with heating in general, your heating costs for your work area will depend on your heating solution, the air humidity, and the size of the space. As 2020 sprang working from home on many of us, you may not yet have a dedicated home office area. Makeshift ‘offices’ have been made out of all sorts of unconventional spots – like sunrooms which ironically, can turn into ice boxes in the winter. Other Kiwis are simply forced to set up on the dining table, often in an open area that makes heating hard or at the very least expensive. And anywhere that’s high in moisture will need a solution for better air quality before heating – like a dehumidifier.
We’d suggest assessing whether your current home workspace is the most appropriate from a heating perspective. While many of us rushed to get set up at home to keep working, there could be somewhere else that makes more sense now. If there’s a room that can get heating from a heat pump (more efficient than most standalone electric heaters), you might want to set up camp there instead!
Otherwise, finding a smaller space that is quick to dry out and heat could be your best bet to keep heating costs under control.
Eating and cooking at home
If you’re the type of person to buy your lunch on work days, working from home is probably going to be a nice cost-saver. But if you are a packed lunch operator and are now intending to start exploring your culinary skills by cooking lunch during the day, prepare for an increase to your electricity costs. Using an oven for lunch, which may otherwise run for an hour a day for dinner time, can really bump up your daily kWhs. Add to this use of microwave, kettle, stove and quickly you start to feel it in the pocket.
If you’re not keen to add any additional cooking power costs, you might want to keep the packed lunch approach going at home. Or, better still, make enough dinner for leftovers the next day!
Cleaning power costs
Expect the dishwasher to fill up faster with all this time spent at home working, especially if you do extra cooking. A dishwasher cycle may take 2.7+ kWh a day normally, so two loads a day will double this and your associated energy costs. If we use our appliance power usage estimate resource and assume $0.68 a day of dishwasher use on a non-WFH day, 20+ workdays of extra usage a month could mount up to $13+ extra you’ll pay a month.
To keep this under control, use only the dishes you need, and think about hand washing dishes and reusing if you can. Ideally you can still stick to one cycle a day if it’s possible.
Benefits of working from home
We’ve covered some areas that will possibly see a spike in power usage while working at home, but there are financial advantages, too. First, you’re cutting out all your commuting costs, be it public transport or petrol – it’s not until you go without these costs that you realise how much of a big difference they can make to your monthly budget. If you’re an EV owner, you’ll find your charging needs reduce greatly without a commute.
You might even decide to cook during the lunch break to make lunch and dinner. Bulk cooking is a great way to cut power usage costs and your supermarket expenses. By the way, you’ll be amazed at how many food containers you manage to hold onto at home vs. all those lost into the black hole that is the office staff kitchen.
Powershop have supported our staff to work at home as part of the country’s efforts to control and eliminate the spread of COVID-19. We understand that families and businesses have been greatly affected by the Corona Virus and encourage any of our customers who are experiencing hardship to read our help page on COVID-19.
If you’re a business owner looking for help getting control of your power usage, check out our Business hub.
- Saving Electricity - How much power do appliances use?
- Govt.nz - Using your home for business
- Computerworld - How to set up a work-from-home ‘office’ for the long term