With roughly 34 million telecommuting adults in America—a number slated to double by 2016, according to Forrester Research—adjustments to your home office power consumption, lighting, and heating and cooling can impact the environment and your wallet—up to about $200 per year in energy costs.
Down-shift your power consumption
1. Activate power-management settings. Home office electronics have multiple power modes: active (or "on"), active standby ("on" but consuming less than 100% power), and passive standby (or "off"), according to the nonprofit American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, which promotes energy efficiency to consumers and government policy makers.
You can instruct your computer to move into lower-consumption modes automatically when you've stopped using it temporarily—during a lunch hour or phone call, for instance—yet also wake up when you're ready to resume working. Such tactics can reduce your computer-related electricity costs by $25 to $75 per machine annually, says Energy Star.
Energy Star-rated power management features are available on Macintosh and Windows platforms (XP, Vista, 2000). Energy Star offers tips for how to adjust settings on different platforms.
Other providers offer help, too: Software vendor Verdiem offers a power management set-up tool called Edison and EnergyStar offers a similar tool called EZ Wizard, both of which guide you through the process of setting up power management.
If you're uneasy launching power management protocols yourself, you can pay software companies' IT pros to log on to your computer remotely and adjust your settings. Symantec, for instance, charges about $20 for its "Green PC" service.
2. Use a power strip for your computer, printer, copier, and other peripherals.If you plug office electronics into a power strip, you can switch all of them fully off (versus leaving them in "standby" mode) with one button. Power strips cost around $3 to $12 from online retailers. Standby power—the energy that's wasted by electronic devices that are plugged in, but not in use—represents about $100 per year in the average household's electricity costs, says Energy Star. Assuming your home office equipment represents about 4% of your electricity bill, you could save up to $4 a year.
3. If you're investing in new computer equipment, look for Energy Star-rated computers, small servers, copiers, fax machines, and adapters. Energy Star estimates that using these rated electronics in your home office can save $115 over the products' lifetimes.
4. Consider a laptop over a desktop. Laptops use one-third the power (22 watts) of a typical desktop (68 watts) when in active mode, according to ACEEE. Annually, a laptop could save you about $19 compared with a desktop.
5. Opt for a flat-panel vs. CRT monitor. A cathode-ray tube monitor consumes about 70 watts of power, while an LCD or flat-panel eats only 27, according to ACEEE data. That's about $1 in savings over year.
Reduce lighting costs
6. Replace traditional bulbs with compact fluorescents.By replacing one 60-watt incandescent bulb with an equivalent compact fluorescent in a home office where lights are on for eight hours per day, you could save up to $15 per year, according to Energy Star.
7.Buy CFL versions of halogen lights. If you like the look or brightness of halogen or torchiere lamps, the The Edison Electric Institute recommends buying compact fluorescent versions that consume less than 25% of the power (55 to 65 watts) of conventional versions (300 watts) and cost about the same.
8. Consider task lighting. Opting for a desk lamp versus whole-room lighting lets you use fewer bulbs concurrently, according to The Institute.
9. Locate lamps in corners.The adjoining walls will magnify the light across the room.
10. Turn off lights when leaving a room.
Keep heating and cooling costs at bay
11. Lower thermostats 10% during the day (to 62, for instance, from 68). This can save up to 10% on annual heating and cooling bills, according to the DOE, or about $100 per year. Supplement with thick slippers and sweaters in winter and keep windows open in summer, with shades down in the afternoon.
12. Use a space heater in winter and a portable or ceiling fan in summer. Both room-specific solutions cost far less than running whole-house systems at maximum capacity. Using fans or space heaters will eat into your savings for lowering the thermostat, but not nearly as much as using a central heating or cooling system throughout the house. Fans can run $25-$150; space heaters, $10-$80 at online retailers.
If your office is one-third the size of your house or smaller, you can safely estimate that space heating will be more cost-effective than heating the entire home just for the sake of the office, according to NYSEG, a utility company in Rochester, N.Y.
Optimizing your home office for maximum energy efficiency requires little effort, but can help lower your home's overall energy consumption and annual utility bill without hampering productivity.