Going green can seem like an overwhelming project for smaller businesses without a lot of capital or infrastructure. But just because you work out of your house, whether in a spare room, on your laptop at your kitchen table, or even in a hammock out in your backyard, it doesn’t mean you can’t contribute to making our world more environmentally friendly by thinking about energy efficiency. In fact, you can kill two birds with one stone by improving your living space and workspace at the same time!
One good place to look for tips on saving energy is your local power company. The U.S. Department of Energy also offers a variety of hints as to how to cut down on waste, from the obvious, like turning off machines when they are not in use, to the more technical, including what types of electronics to buy and how to avoid “vampire” power drains.
Here are some particularly popular tips for creating savings, both personally and for the environment:
Turn Things Off When You’re Not Using Them!
There are a few popular misconceptions that make it harder for people to save energy in their home offices. For example, it is actually not true that screensavers reduce energy usage or that it is better to leave equipment running than to keep turning it on and off. The simplest way to reduce energy costs and waste is simply to turn things off when you aren’t using them, especially computers, televisions, stereos and DVD players, not to mention overhead lights and table or counter lamps!
Avoid Vampire Drain!
However, with some appliances, even turning them off when not in use is not necessarily enough. Many people are unaware that even when electronics are switched off, they can continue to use energy – this is known as a “vampire” power drain. Chris Stewart, the Senior Communicator for the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory points out here that appliances “using phantom loads” include many that most of us might not consider, from coffee makers to rechargeable toothbrushes!
There are a few ways to avoid this. The simplest is to actually unplug appliances from the wall instead of merely turning them off, especially chargers for other devices. Another is to plug all such equipment into power strips and then to turn off the power strip in order to truly cut off the power when the equipment is not in use. This is especially helpful when it comes to larger devices like computers and televisions, but also applies to smaller ones like kitchen appliances.
Make Good Choices When Making Purchases
In addition, to reduce your overall energy usage, make good environmentally conscious choices when making purchases in the first place. For example, laptops use less energy than desktop computers. In addition, when buying smaller products that use battery power, look for those that will take rechargeable batteries, so that you don’t have to keep buying and disposing of regular batteries.
Additionally, look for the ENERGY STAR label, especially when buying computers, in order to create great savings on your power bill. This label is certified by the Environmental Protection Agency and means that the products both save energy and money. An index of Energy Star products can be found here (for homes) and here (for businesses).
Use Good Common Sense
There are so many small steps it is possible to take in order to be energy-efficient. For example, lighting is a huge expense in most homes, especially when the owner works there as well. Buy energy-efficient light bulbs and place directional lamps where they are needed, instead of keeping the overhead lights burning morning, noon and night.
You can also weatherize your home office, getting an inspection by your local power company and adding insulation where needed, in order to keep energy from escaping. Being conscientious about maintenance can also help you avoid costly repairs to heating or cooling equipment. Even something as small as turning down the heat by a couple of degrees in the winter and turning down the air by a couple of degrees in summer can result in big savings.
What steps do you plan to take to improve your home office’s energy efficiency?
Garret Stembridge is part of the team at Extra Space Storage, a leading provider of self-storage facilities. Garret often writes about sustainable practices for homes and for businesses. Many Extra Space Storage locations, including several in Chicago, have been retrofitted to reduce energy consumption.