Fri. Nov 27th, 2020

Hidden Energy Costs of Working Remotely During COVID-19 Outbreak

Tele-commuting is not a new concept, but since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, research shows that 4.7 million Canadians who don’t normally work from home began in response to the pandemic.

Working remotely has its financial perks.  For one, employees may save money on things like gasoline for their daily commute, business attire, lunch out, and so on.  At the same time, it can incur hidden costs that may not have been considered before.

It’s inevitable.  People who work from home full-time will always use more power than if they worked in a brick and mortar office, especially when you have one or more computers running all day.  Also take in account the use of air conditioning or heat, depending on the season, will be in use all or most of the day.

With everyone connected online, telework raises residential internet usage tenfold. With a dozen laptops and smartphones straining your wifi, lights on and air conditioning running constantly, it’s no wonder electricity rates have risen.

For years, medium and large sized Ontario businesses have faced similar (though on a much larger scale) problems with finding new and effective ways to save money on their energy bills. Looking to cut down on costs, an industrial company in Mississauga, Ontario recently renovated a 145,300 square-foot property, installing 319 new high-efficiency lighting fixtures and 272 motion sensors.  As a result, the business improved energy savings by over $60,000 per year.

Despite efforts by businesses and residential consumers alike, Ontario electricity rates have risen over the last decade. As the natural gas supply is exposed to international markets that pay a higher rate, U.S. prices have also risen despite a decrease in recent years that came as a result of the hydraulic fracturing boom.  And with plans in place to continue remote work well into the fall, many hydro customers across North America will continue to incur higher charges.

The number also depends on various factors such as the type of job, number of people at home, and people’s daily habits. While there’s no one answer for everyone, there are some employees for whom remote work exceeds commuting costs.

Research scientist Bruce Nordman says, “Even the range of people who share demographic characteristics and habits energy use is “often quite large” and varied.”

Factors that lead to higher energy consumption include living in a large suburban home as opposed to a city apartment, as well as use of heating and cooling systems.

“Those who see a huge jump in their energy consumption reflects those “who are using their residences in new ways,” explains Anne Marie Corbalis, a spokesperson for a New York City-based utility company.

No matter what expenses you have to pay out of pocket as a remote employee, it would be wise to double check your electricity bill to see if you are paying a higher rate during this time.

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