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How to manage your energy use while in self-isolation

Updated: May 29, 2020

It’s a cold, wet morning on day 2 of self-isolation. Summer is long gone now and we’re left with a sprinkling of raindrops on our windows and dark roads from last night’s rain. The cold is settling in for a long winter.

Amidst the change in season, we’re all stuck at home, bringing out those heaters from the back of the cupboard and turning the shower up a notch warmer. And as the temperatures drop, our energy bills are increasing. How can we keep our energy use down while in self-isolation? Here are a few ways:

  • Turn all the lights off!

This is probably the most basic but understated thing you could do in your household to reduce power usage. Implement a ‘switch off when done’ policy for all light and power switches and make sure lights aren’t on in rooms you’re not using. Next time your light bulb dies, make the switch to an affordable and efficient LED bulb that uses up to 75% less energy than an incandescent light bulb and lasts a lot longer.

  • Send your computer to sleep

Many computers are programmed to spin a screen saver when they’re not in use. Setting it to sleep mode when you’re taking a break or powering down at night reduces energy usage with almost no extra effort. Also, if your computer doesn’t need charging, don’t leave it plugged in all day long or over night. You aren’t going far from the charging cable anytime soon!

  • Eliminating vampire power

Power plugs suck power when they’re left turned on or plugged in. One simple solution in areas where you have many electronics such as near a computer is to install a power strip that you can turn off at the wall when not in use – such as at night.

  • Close your curtains

When winter sets in we start warming our homes with heaters, fireplaces and heat-pumps. Closing your curtains at dusk helps that heat stay inside therefore reducing the energy needed to heat your home.

  • Daft draughts

Gaps in windows, floorboards or under doors can seriously affect the temperature of a room, bringing in hot air in summer and cold air in winter. During winter in self-isolation, an easy solution to fix a large draught is to jam an old towel into the gap to reduce this airflow.

  • Put on a jumper

In winter it’s tempting to put the heater or heat-pump on at full force and walk around in your underwear. But, instead of rocking your undies, consider wearing warmer clothes and reducing the temperature on the heat pump. This is one of the single largest differences you can make to save energy because heating and cooling costs make up nearly half of the average homes power bills. Additionally, focus on heating the room you spend the most time in, such as the living room. If it’s chilly in bed at night, make yourself a hot water bottle and wear thick socks to keep yourself warm.

  • Dirty laundry and ditching the dryer

One full laundry load actually uses less energy than two half loads, so make sure you maximise each load. Spot washing particular areas, such as a small tomato sauce stain on an otherwise clean shirt, can also reduce how often you have to do laundry. Lowering the temperature for each wash to 30°C uses one third of the amount of energy and still washes your clothes effectively. Dryers use a lot of energy so use your washing line whenever you can especially in summer. If it’s rainy in winter, use an inside clothes horse placed in a warm room instead – just make sure to open a window every now and then!

  • Doing your dishes

Like with the laundry, wait until your dishwasher is full before running it. If you’re not using many dishes, it might be more efficient to wash them by hand and leave them to air dry.

  • Reduce your water usage

Reducing your water usage also reduces the energy required to heat it. Take shorter showers on a slightly lower pressure and don’t leave the tap running when brushing your teeth or washing your dishes. A dripping tap can fill up half a bathtub in a week – so imagine how much water you’ll save by reducing your usage by a small amount!

Saving energy doesn’t have to be a challenge. In fact, now that we’re spending more time at home, it might be a good idea to review your household habits and minimise your energy use as we come into winter. Reducing your daily energy use will help with your bills, reduce your carbon footprint and make it a little easier to get through self-isolation.

Lena is studying an honours degree at AUT. Her research is comparing behavioural differences of Nemo fish in captivity and the wild. As a part time job, she teaches at the university. One of her favourite pastimes is to banter about current environmental issues. However, this tends to be only with people who agree, so it’s generally one-sided.

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