Live in California? 4 Ways to Stop Your Electric Bill From Spiking During Quarantine

A family eat breakfast together in their home in CA.
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Talk about sticker shock. I recently got a power bill from another month of COVID-19 quarantine, and I was absolutely floored by how expensive it was. Holy cow, people.

My spouse and I are both working from home while our kids are doing their schooling at home. And surprise! It turns out that our involuntary new lifestyle burns a whole lot of electricity.

If you’re in the same boat, your electric bill is probably sky-high, too.

It’s not necessarily going to get better anytime soon, either. With temperatures in California warming up, energy bills could skyrocket this summer — especially if you’re still stuck at home.

Here are four ways to lower your power bill during the pandemic:

1. Run Your Major Appliances During Off-Hours — and Get Paid

Do you ever stop to think about what time it is when you run the dishwasher or do a load of laundry?

Being more strategic about these decisions can help you save you money, because electricity costs more during peak hours of high demand. It’s best to wait until demand is lower, like at night or in the morning, and you could save money.

Better yet, if you live in California, a company called OhmConnect will actually pay you to cut back on your electricity during peak hours. That’s because all of those peoples’ appliances running at the same time costs your power company more money.

If you get your electricity from PG&E, SDG&E or Southern California Edison — which cover nearly every county in the state — you can earn $300 a year (or more!) this way.

OhmConnect pays you to help save energy when the power grid gets stretched. It’ll send you a text to let you know about these earning periods. During this time, your job is to simply use less power.

Visalia, California, resident Tanya Williams earned an extra $1,700 in one year with OhmConnect — more than $140 a month. About once a week, the stay-at-home mom shut down her home’s electrical panel and took the kids to the pool or just played board games.

It takes just a few minutes to sign up.

2. Use Natural Light, Because It’s Free

Three women look out a window in their home.
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If you leave the lights on all day while you’re working from home, you’re wasting energy — and money. 

Open up your curtains to make the most of the natural light from outside. If possible, set your workspace up near a window and not, say, your dingy back room. (An added bonus: Sunlight is good for your mood and your mental health, too. Humans aren’t meant to live in dungeons.)

One important caveat: When it gets hot in the summer, you may need to lower those blinds or close those drapes — at least some of them. That’ll lower the temperature in your home so the air-conditioning doesn’t need to run all the time.

3. Get Better Light Bulbs

What kind of light bulbs are in your house? Switching from incandescent to fluorescent or LED light bulbs can save you money.

Experts recommend using Energy Star-certified light bulbs that burn less energy and last up to 10 times longer than traditional ones. They cost more initially, but you’ll save over time by buying fewer light bulbs and paying less on your power bills. 

Not excited about shelling out for a houseful of new bulbs? Many power companies will offer rebates when you make the switch to energy-efficient bulbs. Find more information online, or call your power company and ask.

4. Pull the Plug on Vampires

This is one of the simplest ways you can save money on electricity — literally overnight. 

Make a point to unplug electronics when you’re not using them. Because even when you’re not actually using them, they’re still sucking up electricity. They’re energy vampires lurking in your house! They’re burning what’s called “phantom power,” the energy a device uses when it’s in standby mode.

Start with the biggest offender, your DVR. Just by being plugged in when you’re not using it, your DVR probably costs you more than $40 a year, according to the Department of Energy.

Then, unplug your Keurig coffee maker, TV, your printer, your scanner, your kids’ school-issued laptops when they’re not in use.

So long, vampires.

Mike Brassfield ([email protected]) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. He hates vampires.