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Power Down

Lights on, computer humming, A/C droning? How to beat the high cost of home-office electricity

Working from home cuts some costs, like dry cleaning, gas for commuting and office rent. But powering up the home office can put a drain on your monthly electricity bills, unless you're kilowatt-wise.

"More time in the home office can lead to higher electricity bills," says Steve Rosenstock, manager of electric solutions with Edison Electric Institute (EEI) (http://www.eei.org), an industry trade group whose members work with homeowners to boost efficiency and lower bills. "They're targeting the home and, as a side effect, the home office."

Electric companies, many of whom face competition from deregulation, have positioned themselves as homebased workers' allies in saving home-office energy. Some, like Florida Power & Light, offer cash incentives to boost energy efficiency. Meanwhile, EEI publishes 111 Ways to Reduce Your Electric Bill, a guide to efficient electric technologies.

Here are some tips to conserving energy-and staying comfortable-in your home office:

  • Purchase computers, printers and other equipment with the "Energy Star" high-efficiency logo. Make sure they feature a sleep mode when not in use. All-in-one machines draw less electricity than separate units for the same functions.
  • Turn off equipment when leaving the office for long periods. Use a surge protector and uninterrupted power supply (UPS) to protect expensive equipment-and work-from power spikes or losses. Even a momentary "brown out" can erase hours of unsaved work. It's a good practice to supplement an automatic backup with a hard save every few minutes.
  • Don't overload individual outlets with too many appliances. Rearrange the office if necessary to find more outlets for your office equipment.
  • Set the thermostat on 78 degrees on warm days and use ceiling fans to cool your home office. Similarly, on cold days, set the thermostat to 66, and reverse the spin so the fan forces warmer air off the ceiling. Insulate attics and walls to provide greater savings.
  • Replace incandescent and halogen lamps with fluorescent lighting, dust off dirty bulbs and turn off lights when you leave the room. Use sunlight to illuminate the office and window shades to block direct sunlight and insulate against heating or cooling loss. Also, plant foliage outside windows to provide shade-and shield expensive office equipment from the view of outsiders. Money saved on power goes directly toward your bottom line-so power down and save.

Jeff Zbar is a homebased writer, speaker and author of Home Office Know-How (Upstart Publishing).

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