How has the pandemic affected home-energy use?
Last March, Americans left their offices, gyms, and schools behind to enter a period of quarantine at home. While many regions have largely reopened, a significant number of Texans still work remotely or attend school online. This trend has increased waistlines and exacerbated online shopping habits — not to mention adding pressure on home utilities. As the United States approaches a full year of this pandemic, how has the new normal affected home-energy use?
Utility usage has decreased, but not for families.
Overall, energy use in Texas has decreased throughout COVID-19’s extended stay — largely due to closures in the commercial and industrial economies. But some of these traditional big business energy costs have shifted to individual workers and students. People power laptops, routers, and cell phone chargers now exclusively at home. Texas residential energy bills now absorb eight or more hours of electricity — formerly provided through employers and schools. Homeowners have also taken on the additional resource burden for new safety habits like washing hands and cleaning surfaces frequently.
With big industry off the grid, the decreased demand for electricity will hopefully keep utility costs stable. But, Americans have faced income challenges throughout the pandemic. Many have lost jobs or left jobs to care for others at home. Although commuting and dining-out costs have decreased, these savings get gobbled up by the additional at-home energy and water usage.
Extreme weather and high temperatures piled more stress on summer 2020. Southern states, especially, relied heavily on home air conditioning; heating and cooling costs contribute the most to high utility bills. Winter 2020, projected to bring mild temperatures, may bring some relief to Texas utility bills.
What can Texans do to save?
If people pay more than their normal share in energy costs, what can be done, especially with winter on the way? Many relief programs have been questioned with the ever-changing tide of politics. Individuals can research their local utilities for possible assistance or forgiveness, but no guarantee exists. Some companies provide prepay options that could mitigate financial unpredictability. Others incentivize energy-saving strategies like free LED lighting or home assessments, but plenty of at-home options exist that Americans can implement on their own.
Easy energy-saving tips to combat Covid-costs:
Effective strategies can limit electricity use without compromising at-home comforts. First, turn the thermostat down, especially at night. Turning the thermostat down by even one degree can contribute to a lower utility bill. Consider down comforters and flannel pajamas for holiday gift ideas. Second, turn down the water heater. More people at home means more hot water use, especially for showers and dishes. This can increase dramatically over the holiday season. Third, unplug appliances when not in use. Computers, televisions, and phone chargers use electricity even when not switched on. Implement a power strip and turn these off with the flick of a button.
Get some control back.
The year 2020 has been chaotic. Don’t let surprise utility bills contribute to stress and anxiety. Americans can create a better sense of control over their immediate home environment with some basic energy-saving tricks.