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EGEB: How to be energy-efficient while working from home

In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • Working from home can boost your energy bill. Here’s how to keep it under control.
  • The DOE’s Solar Challenge Decathlon Design Challenge Weekend in April will be virtual.
  • The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy fights for suspending utility cutoffs.

The Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB): A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Working from home green energy-style

A lot of people are now working from home due to the coronavirus. Here’s how to be more energy efficient. Both the environment and your energy bill will thank you.

Take advantage of natural daylight. If you’re in a cooler climate, the sun will help warm your house. Or just put on a sweater or use blankets. Likewise, if you’re in a warmer climate, pull your blinds — it’s how it’s always been done in places like Spain or the Caribbean. Heating and cooling costs make up nearly half of an average home’s utility bills. And natural light is great for ambience, so turn off your lighting if it’s not necessary. (I turn off all lights during the day until I absolutely need to switch them on, late afternoon, and sit by a window.) Once you do have to turn on your lights, switch any non-LED lights to LED. You can order them online, and you’ll save money in the long run.

Turn down your water heater temperature. Even a couple of degrees can make a difference to your energy consumption without compromising the simple pleasure of a nice shower. (Oh, and baths are lovely, but if you want to keep your water bill down too, stick to showers.)

Use a smart power strip. Smart power strips ensure your tech devices that you need for work don’t use power when they’re not in use. And you can also get them with surge protection, too.

Use power management settings. Electronics have Active, Active standby, and Passive standby settings. If you set your computer to passive standby, you’ll save power when you take a break. (I keep my laptop on a setting where it “sleeps” after just a couple minutes.)

Unplug things, or turn them off if you’re not using them. Don’t let the TV run all day, wait for the dishwasher to be full if you run it, and only put in full loads of laundry.

Solar Decathlon goes virtual

The US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon is a biannual collegiate competition that’s been running since 2002. In the Decathlon’s own words, it comprises 10 contests…

…that challenge student teams to design and build highly efficient and innovative buildings powered by renewable energy. The winners will be those teams that best blend architectural design and engineering excellence with innovation, market potential, building efficiency, and smart energy production.

It consists of the Design Challenge and the Build Challenge. And yesterday, the DOE Solar Decathlon announced that the Design Challenge weekend, on April 17-19, will be completely virtual due to COVID-19. (It was originally to be held at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.)

Here’s the virtual agenda. And here’s the competition guide, if you’re interested in how it’ll work. Here’s how the Design Challenge evaluates the projects:

Designs are evaluated on how well they meet the nation’s rapidly evolving demand for buildings that are innovative, cost-effective, quick to build, high quality, resilient, grid interactive, efficient, and locally responsive.

Keep utilities on in a crisis

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) sent out an email that stated the following:

Millions of people are facing unprecedented hardship as the COVID-19 coronavirus takes its toll on public health and livelihoods. Smart energy policies that conserve resources and protect customers continue to be critically important in these uncertain times, especially as some may struggle even more than normal to pay our bills. It is critically important for power companies to make sure that no one is left behind and no one’s utilities are shut off, especially as people are encouraged to stay home.

Utilities are a necessity, not a luxury. Even at the best of times, too many people have to choose between paying their utility bills or groceries, prescriptions, or rent.

In these extraordinary circumstances, it is critical that utilities immediately suspend disconnections, waive late payment fees, reconnect customers that have been recently been disconnected due to nonpayment, and commit to investing in bill-lowering measures like energy efficiency and solar energy.

SACE recommends contacting your elected officials to urge them to suspend utility disconnections and commit to green energy and energy efficiency, which lowers bills and reduces pollution. Because pollution is one of the greatest threats to human health in the world.

You can check here to see what your utility company’s policy is on disconnections during this pandemic.

Photo: Glenn Carstens-Peters/Unsplash

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.