There is no denying the huge hike in energy prices is going to have an impact on people working from home. If you need to warm your house for most of the day, you are likely to feel the hit to your bills. While there is some support from the government, everyone will welcome ideas to help them save money and energy, especially when working from home.
The Energy Price Guarantee means the Government has reduced the cost per unit of electricity and gas. It means the average UK household will pay approximately £2500 per year on energy. This is for people on variable tariffs where the price per unit can fluctuate. It still means you could spend more or less than that depending on how much energy you use.
Claiming for costs
One way to save money when working from home is to understand exactly what you can claim for on your annual tax return.
For employees who have to work from home because their employer has no office or they live far away from the office, they can claim tax relief on certain expenses. These include energy use in their workspace and business phone calls. It’s possible to claim tax relief on £6 a week. Anything above that, you need to provide proof with receipts or contracts. Employees who have a choice or hybrid work arrangements are not eligible for this sort of tax relief.
If you are self-employed working from home, you can also deduct certain costs to reduce the amount you pay tax on. These include flat rates for utilities under simplified expenses for working from home. The rules are slightly different if you run a limited company. Remember to speak to your accountant about what tax relief you can get. We speak with small business advisors about some of this here.
Heating Your Home: Is renewable worth it?
Gas, electric, oil, renewables, there are many different alternatives now for heating your home.
Depending on the size of your home, how long you will be there, and the age of your property, some energy sources will be more efficient than others.
The cost of gas and electricity has soared in recent months, so interest in switching to renewable sources has also increased.
“There are several financial incentives available for consumers, such as zero VAT on solar panel systems and zero VAT on heat pumps. The Government’s Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS) means that you can also replace old boilers with heat pumps. Under this scheme, you’ll be legible for £5k installation if you go for an air source system, and £6k for ground source,” says Mandip Bhamra of SaveEnergyCutCarbon.
If the return you get on your investment is important to you, you will have to look at how long you intend to stay in the property. If you are planing to move out of your home in the near future, you may not see the return.
There are no set rules, but, according to Mandip, generally, the following applies: “Solar panels were typically 15-20 years, but this has decreased to 6-12, largely driven by the rising cost of energy. In some cases, with heat pumps, it might cost you more to run than gas, but consumers have them installed for the carbon saving element and wishing to be environmentally friendly. However, with BUS and a system that works for your house, it could be 8-10 years. If you’re transitioning from LPG/Oil this will be quicker than if you were using gas from the mains.”
He adds: “Heat pumps are great for new builds, but not so much for older properties. This is because new builds are geared towards having a lower flow temperature, and also have lower amounts of heat loss. Most importantly, however, you need to look at where you’re spending, and make other reductions from there.”
Batching food and tasks
We often talk about batching tasks as a form of saving time. It can be a useful tactic to save money and energy working from home too.
Batch cooking is a way we can reduce our energy bills by cooking several meals in one go, only reheating for a shorter time when required. This is ideal for homeworkers as well, who can use a lunch break to prepare food and make the most of reheating batch prepared meals.
Baked potatoes are a great example as they can take an hour in the oven. Cook more than you need and save extra potatoes in an air-tight bag or container and refrigerate to use again within a few days or freeze and thaw to use at a later date.
Many meals that are suitable for batch cooking can also be done in a slow cooker, which can also prove cheaper to run than an electric over or hob.
Other good meals to batch cook include:
- Shepherds Pie
Batching your tasks could also help you reduce costs. Not only do they save you time, but if certain tasks can only be done in your workspace or office, perhaps where you have a desktop for instance, these are best batched together. This will reduce the amount of time you have to spend in a space that you might otherwise not be heating. You can save other tasks, for example, reading, researching, social media that can be done on a phone, to do elsewhere.
It may mean scheduling or restructuring your day a little so you time block and batch tasks to do in one space so you can batch other tasks to do in a communal space that is usually heated.
Change your location
Think outside the box, or outside the workspace. Don’t feel restricted to only working in your designated office, especially on cold days.
Where stays warmer? Which rooms are better insulated and which rooms do you tend to keep heated?
Moving your desk into a warmer spot or doing some work in a room you heat for general use could save you heating separate rooms unnecessarily.
Changing your work environment is no bad thing. It might help you save money and energy working from home if you switch to a different room even temporarily.
If you have access to a coworking space, you don’t need to worry about the cost of heating or running your laptop at home. However, you will need to weigh this up against the cost of using and travelling to the space.
Heating your office
One of our favourite items for heating a room is the under rug heater. Running on electricity, it can save you from turning the gas central heating on to heat the whole house. It helps to keep your room at a comfortable temperature. This is a real way to save money and energy working from home.
Using electric oil fin heaters are popular as they also avoid using the central heating. However, they can be expensive to run if you keep them on all day. These are generally around 1500 – 2000 watt, although you can get smaller ones. They consume roughly 2 kilowatt hours (kWh) per hour. At current electricity rates of 34.0p/kWh, it would cost around 68p per hour to run.
If you check out our Homeworker shop section, you will find Rug Buddy – a great way to warm your room and your feet in a home office or when you don’t want to heat the entire house.
Check out this article for more ways to keep warm when you work from home.
Check your appliances
The most energy hungry appliances in the home are generally those that heat up. Aside from heaters, they include tumble dryers, washing machines, and ovens. It will of course depend on how energy efficient your appliances are.
It is also worth looking at your lights and desk lamp to check you are using energy efficient, LED bulbs.
If you get cheaper rates of electricity at night, it is worth using a timer for appliances such as dishwashers or washing machines to come on overnight.
Washing clothes at lower temperatures, batch-cooking, and making small lifestyle changes can all help you save money and energy working from home.
This information from the Centre for Sustainable Energy shows a table of costs for different appliances.
Switch off and unplug
Do you leave your computer switched on overnight or your TV on standby? Simply switching these off at the mains can help to reduce your energy bill.
The savings on many appliances are quite small. However, items like TV set top boxes and desk top computers can be draining quite a lot of energy without you realising.
According to Loop, a smart meter app, leaving a desktop running all the time, or leaving outside lights on overnight, or an electric towel rail on can cost you hundreds of pounds a year.
Your morning routine
An integral part of the day for many homeworkers is the morning routine. It is a time to get your mind and body ready for the day ahead.
Are there small changes you can make that will help you save money and energy?
- Not turning up the thermostat as high as soon as you wake
- If meditation is part of you routine, using blankets instead of heating to keep warm
- Stretching and workouts to warm you up first thing
- Reducing the length of your morning shower
- If you are brave enough – channel Wim Hof and take a cold shower with all the added health benefits.
- Cut back on hair styling appliances