4 Ways Coronavirus Is Affecting Your Utility Bill

A global virus that keeps us contained in our homes – potentially for months – has caused unprecedented chaos around the world. Let’s look at one area that hasn’t been discussed much as of yet – what impact will self-isolation in the time of COVID-19 have on your utility bill.

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For many Americans right now, the scale of the Coronavirus crisis is comparable to, if not worse than the 2008 financial crisis – just within days, it has reshaped life as we know it. Small businesses are struggling, service industry workers are losing out on weeks’ worth of wages and social activities are significantly curbed.

If you belong to a fortunate group of people, you can work from home and at least for now, continue earning your salary. As measures are being put in place to enforce social distancing in order to spread the transmission of COVID-19, more of our usual day-to-day routines are necessarily moving into the online world. No wonder that internet traffic has jumped 20% in the US alone.

Teleworking, or “home office” is, of course, a blessing for thousands of people, who would otherwise be left without a salary until the virus clears. Unfortunately, there’s a downside to it.

According to Energy Information Administration, a company pays on average $20 per employee per month to keep the lights on, air conditioner running, and computers charged. During Coronavirus, these costs are inevitably born by the workers themselves. Extrapolate that number to a family of four and you will see how the electric bill at the end of the month my start blowing up.

Let’s look at the areas where you will most likely feel the impact of Coronavirus on the utility bill.

1. Using your computer

The average daily power consumption of a laptop (used an average of 4.8 hours per day) is approximately 200 watts. Considering again a four-member family, each staying at home with their own screen, at an average residential price of 12 cents per kWh the additional monthly electric cost is about $10 per month. Also, keep in mind that laptops use up to 80% less energy than desktop computers so, if you have the choice, opt for a laptop over a desktop.

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2. Keeping the lights on

An incandescent light bulb typically consumes about 60 watts per hour at an average cost of 0.6 cents. Because the Coronavirus is forcing you to stay at home with your family, your lights will be on a lot more often than in the other months. That means that if you currently have 20 light bulbs at home (a conservative estimate), an additional 8 hours of lighting (time that you would otherwise spend at work) every day will cost you an additional $19 on your monthly electric bill.

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3. Cooking food

Most people automatically assume that staying at home will save money because you will not be tempted to eat out as much. However, a family of four consumes a lot of food during the month, so the money saved on eating out simply shifts to your grocery bill. And that’s not considering the increased cost of energy used for cooking the food. 

Ovens use between 1000 and 5000 watts, so if you take 1 hour a day spent on cooking (30 minutes for lunch and 30 minutes for dinner), at the price of 12 cents per kWh, that’s a 9 extra dollars onto your electric bill each month. And this is not considering the dishwasher.

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4. Heating (or air-conditioning)

Your HVAC system uses the most energy of any single appliance in your home. The HVAC consumes about 15 000 watts an hour with an hourly cost of $1.50.  How much more are you paying for heating up your place, when forced to stay at home? The answer isn’t as straightforward, as when more people stay indoors, they also produce some energy that warms the place up. However, assuming an average of two extra hours of heating a day results in approximately $60 extra on the monthly bill.

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The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over and will most likely continue to disrupt the day-to-day life for millions of people globally. Even if you are among the lucky ones who are still able to work from home, you will most likely have to bear the negative consequences in the form of an increased utility bill in the upcoming months.

As depressing as the above lines might sound, it is important that you are aware of the ways that the Coronavirus will impact your utility bill so that you can prepare for it. To their credit, various US utility and telecommunications companies have already pledged to suspend service disconnections for non-payment during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, to protect the vulnerable.

The good news is that there are also ways to reduce your electric bill by yourself, without making any major changes to your lifestyle. You can read our guide to the 25 clever ways how to save money on utilities in every room of your house. As a second step, you should check if you are still on the lowest tariff possible and if switching electric suppliers will not result in an overall reduction in your utility bill. 

And let us all hope that the Coronavirus crisis will soon be over, and we can start the process of returning our lives back to normal.

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