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How to save energy during Atlanta’s coronavirus ‘shelter-in-place’

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Spending time at home 24 hours a day means TVs, computers, A/C units, and appliances are running more than ever

Room with TV mounted on the wall above a cabinet containing stereo equipment.
Time at home could lead to high energy use—and utility bills.

As Atlantans continue to shelter in place, the city’s electrical grid is getting a workout like never before.

More time spent working from home, homeschooling the kids, streaming Tiger King, and other power-driven activities means electricity is flowing at a higher rate than normal.

With some highs in the 80s and warmer temps on the way, it won’t be long before A/C units join the demand for even more electrical juice.

To help Atlantans manage energy use and keep power bills under control during the coronavirus pandemic, we tapped officials with Georgia’s main utility provider for tips and resources to help save both energy and money.

1. Set the thermostat for the season

“With hot Southern summers and the added urban ‘heat island’ effect, thermostat management and air conditioning efficiency are key,” says John Kraft, Georgia Power’s media relations manager.

Georgia Power recommends setting thermostats to 78 degrees during warm weather months. With each degree higher the thermostat is set, there is a decrease of 3 to 4 percent in energy use.

Using fans also can make residents feel cooler, even with a higher thermostat setting.

Power strip with cell phones plugged in and finger on the off/on switch.
Using a smart power strip for charging devices can save energy... if you remember to turn it off when not in use.

2. Phase out ‘phantom’ energy loss

“Phantom energy generally refers to the small amounts of energy used in the background by many electronic devices around the clock, even while turned off or in standby mode,” Kraft says.

Therefore, to avoid phantom loss, Georgia Power recommends unplugging devices when not in use, or using a smart power strip and turning it off when equipment or devices are not in use.

This includes charging cords for electronic devices, such as cellphones, that often are left plugged into outlets.

3. Choose wisely with appliances

Avoid using appliances that produce heat during the hottest times of the day, and avoid frequent opening of refrigerators and freezers. Also, consider using your outdoor grill to help save additional energy.

Open grill with smoke rising from it and food setting on the right shelf.
Grilling outside can save energy by not using the stove—and not heating up the kitchen.
Cookie Studio/Shutterstock

4. Feel the flow; free your filters

Clean or change air conditioning filters each month. A dirty filter can make your equipment work harder, resulting in higher bills. Also, make sure furniture, curtains, rugs, and other items do not block vents and return-air registers.

5. Follow on and off advice

Turn off TVs, computers, and other electronic devices when not in use. Consider energy-saving settings, which are often available on newer equipment and appliances.

6. Save with LEDs

Save energy and money by changing a standard light bulb in your home to an ENERGY STAR®-qualified LED bulb. LEDs use 90-percent less energy than standard bulbs and can last up to 15 times longer.

7. Close the damper on your fireplace

Once you stop using your fireplace during colder months, it can be easy to forget it. However, it’s important to close the damper when not in use to prevent air from escaping up the chimney.

Small room with washer and dryer sitting under a countertop with a white cabinet above it.
While the laundry may be piling up, only run your washer when you have a full load.

8. Use hot water sparingly for laundry

With everyone at home, the laundry may seem never-ending, especially for families.

To help conserve energy, wash your clothes—a full load at a time—in warm or cold water and rinse in cold. Use hot water only when absolutely necessary. Also, don’t use too much detergent, because over-sudsing makes your machine work harder.

9. Use your window shades appropriately

As the weather warms, close shades to block the sun’s rays and keep your home cooler. This is especially important for residents in Atlanta’s many high-rise condos that feature floor-to-ceiling windows.

10. Perform an energy checkup on your home

“Customers in older homes may find gaps around doors and windows, inefficient appliances, and insufficient insulation,” Kraft says.

To help find possible problem areas leading to energy loss, access a free online energy checkup to see how you use energy and ways to save.