Business

Tips on saving energy while spending more time at home

Coronavirus changes boost electricity use

Alliant Energy linemen perform maintenance work along First Street NW in Cedar Rapids in this 2013 photo. (Liz Martin/Th
Alliant Energy linemen perform maintenance work along First Street NW in Cedar Rapids in this 2013 photo. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

As Eastern Iowans are spending more time at home in response to coronavirus pandemic safety concerns, they are using more electricity in a variety of ways.

People have traded their workplaces for home offices using their computers all day instead of during evenings or weekends.

Many children have turned their house into a classroom, which means even more computers in use during the day.

“The workday has changed,” said Mike Wagner, an Alliant Energy spokesman. “It used to be everybody got up and left the house in the morning and came back in the evening.

“Now, your whole workday and school day is happening under your roof. Our customers are using more energy than normal right now because that’s what you need to do to survive.”

Realizing families and individuals may feel they don’t have control over much of what is happening in their lives, Wagner said Alliant Energy has come up with tips to help customers better control their energy use.

The full list is available at alliantenergy.com/stayhome.

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• Use the hottest water recommended by your clothing label, if someone in your home is sick. Otherwise, washing with cold water is a good way to save energy. The highest spin cycle removes more water from clothes, so there is less work for your dryer.

• Cook with microwaves, toaster ovens and slow-cookers when possible. They use 50 percent less energy than full-sized electric ovens.

• Always put a small pot on a small burner and a large pot on a large burner. Putting a six-inch pot on an eight-inch burner wastes 40 percent of that burner’s heat.

• Run your dishwasher only when you have a full load and use the air-dry cycle. If your dishwasher has a “booster” water heater, use it. It will heat the water to 140 degrees as recommended by manufacturers, while maintaining an energy-saving 120 degrees on your primary water heater.

• Many video game systems come out of the box without the energy-saving features turned on. Take a few minutes to go to the settings on your system and turn on the energy saving mode.

“Many appliances — especially computers, televisions and cable or satellite boxes — use power even when they are turned off,” Wagner said. “A smart power strip is equipped with outlets that switch them off when you’re not using them, to save energy.

“You also should check the electrical outlets in your house and garage for things that continue to use electricity. We had an old cordless phone charger that didn’t have a phone in it, but it had fallen behind a dresser and the big transformer was still drawing power.”

Wagner said Alliant Energy customers also can track their actual electricity use online by signing up at the company’s “My Account” portal.

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“They can set up alerts, so they get a notification when they’ve used a certain amount of energy,” he said. “They also can compare their current use with what they used last month or last year at this time.”

Nationwide, electricity use early this month fell to a low not seen since 2004, according to analysts and the Edison Electric Institute trade association, the New York Times and the World Economic Forum reported.

The organization cited closed or slowed factories and offices.

It projected commercial-sector electricity sales this year to decline by 4.7 percent, and industrial sales by 4.2 percent.

A mild winter and summer, however, will see residential use to dip by only 0.8 percent this year, even though more people are home throughout the day, the Edison Electric Institute said.

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