Lower Your Home Office Operating Costs to Improve Your Bottom Line
By Rozanne Weissman

For the growing number of Americans
working from home – some 18 million
home-based business owners and some
24 million telecommuters, not to mention
unemployed folks conducting job searches
from their own PCs – higher energy bills
for combined home offices and residences
are a fact of life.

Higher electricity bills to power office equipment and lighting are an inevitable cost of
doing business from home. Trips to the kitchen for meals and snacks and to other areas
of the home for various needs also eat up electricity, especially when lights,
appliances, and electronics in other rooms aren’t turned off when they are no longer in
use. The challenge of keeping home office energy bills from eating up the profits is
particularly tough during the frigid winters, or hot summers that require home
workers to run heating or air conditioning 24/7.

Despite these challenges, the
Alliance to Save Energy says home-based entrepreneurs,
telecommuters, and job-seekers can reduce energy costs while staying comfortable and
“taking care of business” with these tips:

You’re the boss – so manage your office equipment.

Activate “sleep” features on computers, copiers, and other machines that power down
when the equipment is on but not in use for a while, and turn off equipment during
long periods of non-use to cut energy costs and improve longevity. Screen savers do
NOT save energy.

Don’t let profits go out the window (or door).

Why waste your heating and air conditioning dollars? Plug those home office energy
“leaks” by weather-stripping between moving parts (doors and their frames) and
caulking between nonmoving parts (window frames and walls). Insulate that office
properly – as well as your whole home.

Light up your office efficiently.

With lights on much of the day, electricity use invariably increases. To make matters
worse in warm weather, inefficient lighting can overheat your office, increasing cooling
costs. Save money by installing compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and task
lighting in your home office. CFLs burn cooler and use up to 75 percent less energy
than either halogen or incandescent bulbs. Halogen torchieres are expensive to operate
and burn so hot they can cause fires. Instead, choose a safer, more efficient Energy Star
torchiere lamp.

Be an “Energy Star.”

To cut related annual energy expenses by 30 percent, choose Energy Star-labeled
computers, monitors, printers, scanners, copiers, fax machines, multi-function devices
(machines that combine printing, scanning, and faxing), lighting, cordless phones,
answering machines, audio equipment, and room air conditioners. Energy Star is the
symbol for energy efficiency.

Ever-wakeful electronics can drain your pocketbook.

Work requiring electronics such as phones, TVs, VCRs, DVD players, or cable boxes
can further hike up those electric bills. That’s because they consume energy even while
switched off to keep display clocks lit and memory chips and remote controls working.
Energy Star-labeled electronics use less energy in the “off” mode.
Treat your heating and cooling system as office equipment. While working in your
home office, close off the heating/cooling vents in unoccupied rooms. Clean or replace
furnace and room air conditioner air filters once a month for increased efficiency. Give
your furnace or heat pump a professional “tune-up” each year, and ask the technician
to make sure the system is sized and operating at peak efficiency and that ducts are not
leaking. Look for Energy Star furnaces and heat pumps.

Let the sunshine in.

In colder months, allow the sun to help heat your home office by keeping blinds or
drapes on sun-exposed windows open in the daytime. Retain the heat overnight by
closing the blinds after dark. In the summer, reduce cooling costs by drawing shades or
blinds on sun-exposed windows and glass doors.

Refinancing your mortgage?

Consider wrapping into the loan the cost of adding on an energy-efficient home office
or increasing the energy efficiency of your existing home office. The loan interest could
be tax deductible.

Check out these free resources.

Free Alliance to Save Energy resources: Obtain a free booklet, Power$mart: Easy Tips
to Save Money and the Planet, by calling 1-888-878-3256.

Free Department of Energy resources:  Obtain a free booklet, Energy Savers: Tips on
Saving Energy and Money at Home, in English or Spanish by calling 1-877-337-3463 or
online and view an animated version at

Free Environmental Protection Agency resources: Obtain a free copy of Guide to
Energy-Efficient Cooling and Heating which is available at
www.energystar.gov from
the heating and cooling product pages or by calling 1-888-STAR-YES (1-888-782-7937).

About the author: Rozanne Weissman is the Director of Communications and Marketing at
The Alliance to Save Energy which promotes energy efficiency worldwide to achieve a healthier
economy, a cleaner environment and greater energy security.
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