Home Office Energy Savings Add Up

Jeff Zbar

How power-hungry is your home office or small business? Is your kilowatt consumption killing your bottom line?

Home offices typically operate on razor-thin margins, so being able to shave a little off the cost of doing business can be key to running a more profitable enterprise. While you might price shop staples like printer cartridges, paper or even your long-distance carrier, what about utilities?

Poorly planned use of utilities, like electric and gas service, can sap a home office's profitability. Improved electrical consumption, like turning off lights, ceiling fans or computer monitors and other equipment, can help a business save upward of 30% on its electrical bill, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Even home officers, whether they're entrepreneurs or teleworkers - who often aren't reimbursed for utility costs by their employer - should look at those tools used most frequently to find real utility savings.

Start by turning off the power to scanners, printers and fax machines overnight or when not in use. They may not seem to use much energy. But having them in standby mode both wastes electricity and chips away at the device's lifespan. Then put those devices on a surge suppressor or power strip. This will both protect the units from damaging lightning strikes or power surges, as well as allow the user to shut off the power at the strip - and save additional electricity.

Install light- and heat-reducing blinds in the office windows, as well as other windows around the home or small office where the sun has direct exposure. In general, blinds and window treatments will reflect light and head to reduce cooling costs in the summer and help insulate to cut heating costs in the winter. They also make the home office more comfortable to work in by reducing light, glare and other elements. Additionally, blinds and shades are a good protective measure to cut the view of outsiders looking in - and potentially seeing expensive equipment worth stealing.

Replace the traditional CRT monitor with a flat panel display. The units are smaller, leaving more desktop space for the home worker. Drawing only 40 watts of power (25 watts for the 15-inch model), flat panel displays use between 30% and 70% less energy than a traditional 17-inch CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor. Less heat generated means summertime office cooling costs will drop. Out-of-the-box plug-and-use simplicity also means the unit is the perfect add-on to an existing computer system. Further, look for computers and monitors that feature "Energy Star" savings, which means they're designed with greater energy efficiency in mind. Set your computer to automatically place the monitor and system into sleep mode when not in use. This will lead to greater energy savings and less heat emissions. To learn more, visit Energy Star (www.energystar.gov).

Finally, dress for the extremes, and cut your cooling and heating bills. Work in light-fabric clothes in the summer, and don heavier clothes, like sweaters, pants and even socks or slippers in the winter. Every degree under 79 that a house is cooled to can add up to 9% to the electricity bill. Similar costs are associated with heating in the winter.

Watching power consumption can lead to real home and small office savings. Besides, who ever thought that fuzzy slippers or shorts and t-shirts – some of the most heralded benefits of the home office - would help save money?


Jeff Zbar, the "Chief Home Officer.com," has worked as a home-based journalist, author and consultant since the '80s. He specializes in work-at-home, teleworking, alternative officing and small business set-up, marketing, technology, communications and motivation, and is the U.S. Small Business Administration's 2001 Small Business Journalist of the Year. He is the author of Teleworking & Telecommuting: Strategies for Remote Workers & Their Managers (2002, Made E-Z); Safe@Home: Seven Keys to Home Office Security (FirstPublish, 2001), Your Profitable Home Business Made E-Z (Made E-Z, 1999), Home Office Know-How (Upstart Publishing, 1998) and Home Office Success Stories, a free ezine. Jeff, his wife and three young children live in suburban Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

©2003 All Rights Reserved

Print page