As precautions for the COVID-19 pandemic cause people to spend more time at home, electricity use is bound to increase. Cooking lunch at home, working from home and keeping the heat on for longer periods of time are just a few factors that can contribute to a larger electric bill.
DuWayne Dunham, energy services supervisor at Clark Public Utilities, said some of the most cost-effective actions customers can take are to get their house more sealed up. Dunham explained that this means not only weather stripping and insulating doors and windows facing the outdoors, but also attics and crawl spaces.
“If they’re inside the home (access to attics and crawl spaces), they need to be insulated,” Dunham said, explaining how many people are unaware of the energy wasted on an unsealed attic or crawl space.
Along with weather stripping doors and windows, Dunham said caulking the sides of windows and using foam insulation on the holes under sinks are cheap and easy ways to fill a few holes in the home and save a quick buck.
“These are fairly inexpensive materials that you can order online and get delivered to your door,” Dunham said. “You can do these projects around the house that have been needed for a good period of time.”
According to Dunham, one thing homeowners and renters can do to save money that requires next to no effort is replacing incandescent bulbs with LED lights.
“There are so many advantages to LEDs. That’s why when they first came out, they were so expensive,” he said, later adding that LED lightbulbs are about 90 percent more efficient than their incandescent counterparts. “In an incandescent bulb, 90 percent of the energy sent to the bulb is turned to heat instead of light.”
While LEDs can save a family a significant amount on their electric bill, Dunham said one of the best money-saving techniques requires a change of habit.
“A few significant behavioral changes can save you money,” he said. “They don’t cost anything. These are just things that you’re doing differently, changing up your habits.”
Dunham said that changes around the house can range from not leaving the television on while you’re home all day to reprogramming the thermostat.
“Exercising can help with keeping the thermostat down,” Dunham said, mentioning that when he takes his dogs for a walk he comes back inside and realizes how hot his home is.
Dunham also recommends reprogramming your thermostat from its regular schedule to something that fits the needs of a post-coronavirus world.
“I used to be out of the house for eight or more hours a day and it would be off during that time. We don’t have that advantage anymore, so decreasing it just a few degrees can save you,” Dunham said.
According to Dunham, these small habitual changes can make a large impact on an electric bill, as long as they’re done regularly. Actions such as turning off the television once for three hours won't change much, but turning it off for three hours a day adds up to 21 hours a week, and that makes a difference. Customers can pair this with the Home Energy Calculator on the PUD website to save as much as possible.
“It gives people a sense of personal empowerment in times when people feel like they don’t have control over their situation,” he said.
Clark Public Utilities Media Specialist Damien Pesanti also mentioned that, while many different Clark Public Utilities programs may be “treading water” as the COVID-19 crisis continues, the Energy Counselor of the Day program is still in operation. Customers can call or email a counselor between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, to speak directly to a counselor and receive information on how to lower their bill. The Energy Counselor of the Day program can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (360) 992-3355. More information about PUD programs and the energy calculator can be found at clarkpublicutilities.com/.