There is a great deal of uncertainty in the world right now. And there may be many layers of related uncertainty regarding your work situation. If you telework from home, I’m sure you are wondering when you will return to the office. And if your kids are being schooled remotely from your dining room table, you are surely wondering when they will return to the classroom. Amid all the uncertainty, one thing’s for sure. Your electric bill is higher than it used to be!
A typically stocked home office includes several pieces of power-zapping equipment. Several weeks ago, our Miss Telework Manners posted a blog that featured an Equipment Checklist for Successful Teleworking. Let’s walk through some of the items on that list, as well as other home office needs such as lighting and HVAC, to check out the power required to run a home office each workday.
Typical Home Office Requirements
- Large flat-screen monitor
- Surge-protecting power strip
- Reliable internet connection/router
Lighting and HVAC
- Ceiling lights – a typical bedroom or home office has approximately four 60-watt bulbs in recessed light fixtures
- Desk lamp – a typical desktop task light uses one 100-watt bulb
- Ceiling fan – an efficient way to keep a room cool
- Air conditioning – either a window unit or additional use of your whole-house HVAC system
- Cell phone charger
- Tablet charger
- Smart watch charger
- External hard drive
All of these devices need power, some of them much moreso than others. Some require power even when they’re “off” (i.e., standby power). The table below shows how much power in watts each device uses as well as the monthly cost to run each item per month (using an average 8-hour workday and 22 workdays in a month). The cost of power varies widely depending on where you live and often by the time of day. Also, understand that electricity is charged by the kilowatt*hour. A kilowatt is 1,000 watts. So, you are charged for the number of 1,000-watt units used over the 720 hours in a 30-day month. Go here to calculate your energy usage.
Typical Home Office Expenses
The national average residential rate for electricity is currently around 12¢/kWh, which I use for the cost conversion in the table. Feel free to do some research on electricity costs in your area to tweak the table for your situation. The power usage given for each device is an average. Beefier computers, monitors, and printers use more power than the average. Also, as stated above, my calculations assume that your home office will be occupied for a typical 40-hour work week 22 days per month.
Cost per Office
Using the estimates from this table, my office setup in a spare bedroom costs me about $25 dollars in electricity per month. My wife’s setup costs about $18 per month as we share the router and printer. The single largest expense in working from our house is the cost of comfort…air conditioning. I have assumed that the air conditioner in each room needs to run an additional three hours per day compared to if we were not here. The additional A/C need is an estimate based on cooling required to address the heat from you and your office equipment. The cooling unit runs until the room temperature drops to the value set on the thermostat, then is off until the rising temperature triggers the thermostat again. The table also shows that, as expected, the electricity cost is largely driven by a few big items. If you can manage those items, you’ll have the greatest impact on managing your electricity cost.
Tips to Save Money
Tip #1: Set your A/C a few degrees higher
By running your A/C one fewer hour per workday, you can save between $2.50 and $3.00 per room per month in electricity costs. These add up. Once we all return to the office and school, consider investing in a smart thermostat ($50 - $220) that raises the room temperature while everyone is out of the house and automatically lowers it just before you return home. It does the same for heating in the winter. When connected to your Wi-Fi, you can control the smart thermostat via your smartphone from anywhere.
Tip #2: Invest in LED light bulbs
If you still have incandescent light bulbs in your fixtures, the single best bang-for-the-buck change you can make is to replace them with equivalent LED bulbs. You can save over $4.00 per month by replacing four 60W incandescent bulbs with four 10W LED bulbs that provide the same brightness (650 – 850 lumens). While the initial cost of the bulb may be up to 4 times as much ($4 vs $1), the LED bulbs last 20 times as long (up to 25,000 hours) and consume 80% – 90% less power. This one is a no-brainer.
Tip #3: Turn off your equipment when not in use
Laptops, printers, and monitors that are left on consume 40% of their power while you are not even in the office. At the very least, make sure your laptop automatically goes to sleep mode when not in use. This alone can save you as much as $2.50 per month. Consider using a smart surge protector/power strip. In addition to surge protection, smart power strips can be scheduled to turn devices on and off at specific days and times. When connected to Wi-Fi, the power strip can be controlled by your smartphone or by using voice commands through smart home controllers like Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple Siri.
Maximize your Savings
Many of us have learned that working from home has many benefits and even saves money in commuting and other associated costs. But we’ve also learned that there are some trade-offs in home expenses. Keep an eye on your electricity bill to make sure you maximize your savings. With a few steps, you can manage your home office setup so that the additional cost of power usage can be kept to a minimum.