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My home has the best office

Posted by Nola Poirier

I work in the best office. It’s got a big window that faces east, a small one that looks south, and a fully stocked kitchen on its western side.

There are other pluses too, like the fact that I can’t overhear other people's phone calls while I'm trying to have one of my own. And I don’t need a key to use the bathroom.

On the downside, there aren’t any good lunch spots or coffee shops nearby, and no one – and I mean no one – ever pops in to regale me with tales about their weekend, their Tuesday night movie date, or the latest trick their baby can do.

The tools to work remotely

I work from home. I have done so for over a year now. I have a laptop, a decent long distance plan for my landline, a fax/copier/scanner/printer machine, and two cabinets spilling over with files; all the tools I need to be able to work remotely.

Until recently, my home office was in Vancouver where I could be at a meeting almost anywhere in town, on my bike, in less than 30 minutes (and where I actually did have great restaurants nearby and people popping in frequently). But in the fall, when I suddenly decided to buy land just outside Powell River, I added some distance to the meaning of remote.

Some people say they don’t work well from home, that there are too many distractions, but I thrive on it. I need to pace the room and talk to myself and make pots of tea in order to write.

Some of my tricks for working effectively anywhere are to carve out time slots for accomplishing tasks, make specific times for lunch and breaks, and a have checklist of to-dos and accomplishments for each day.

Cutting my energy costs

Another key to efficient work is an efficient office. Having the information and tools you require nearby is part of that, but more important, setting up your equipment and your office to be energy efficient can cut down significantly on energy use and costs.

Turning it off

All the equipment that makes home offices efficient places to work can also make them inefficient energy consumers.

One significant source of waste is the energy they draw when they are not being used. By far the easiest, most cost effective way to reduce energy is to turn your equipment off when you aren’t using it. This includes lights, computers, copiers, fax machines, and other electrical equipment.

People used to believe that turning off their computers put wear and tear on the systems, but that isn’t the case, and turning a computer off overnight can save up to 50% of its daily energy draw.

I know that for me, with all my pacing and tea making, there are many times I’m not using my computer, but I’ll be going right back. For those times, I set it to sleep (on my Mac. It’s hibernate mode on a PC). To make this feature most effective, adjust the settings so the computer automatically switches to this mode after a minute or two of idle time.

It’s important to note that screen savers are not necessarily an energy saving feature. In fact, some actually use more energy to run their graphics. If you do use a screen saver, keep the timing short, and set your computer to switch to sleep/hibernate mode after a couple of minutes. If you work on a desktop, you can save even more energy by turning off the monitor anytime you aren’t using the computer.

Ghost busting: power bars and smart strips

Using power bars is another valuable energy saving strategy. A lot of electronic appliances use power even when turned off (called “phantom loads”). With a power bar, you can turn everything off at once when you leave the office, which stops these phantom draws. It also makes it easy to ensure everything is turned off.

Smart strips are a kind of power bar/surge protector that will automatically turn equipment off when it has been idle for a set amount of time. They have special colour-coded outlets for equipment you don’t want to have automatically shut off, like a telephone or computer. Check out our tip on smart strips – also known as power strips for more information.

Efficient equipment

Your equipment has a direct relationship to your energy use. For example, using a laptop computer can save up to 90% of the energy used by a desktop.

And not all equipment is created equal. If you are in the market for any new electronic equipment, purchase Energy Star certified models. This certification ensures quality products and high standards of energy efficiency. For more information on energy efficient equipment, read the office equipment and supplies guide here on bchydro.com, as well as the electronics guide in bchydro.com's Green Your Home section.

Lifecycle

Product manufacture and disposal have HUGE energy footprints. Consider lifecycle in all your purchases and ensure you are making a selection that will serve your needs in the long-term. BC Hydro’s equipment Buyer’s Guide offers some tips for making sound choices.

If you are getting rid of old equipment, try to sell it to someone who needs it. The BC Electronics Materials Exchange, Craigslist, Ebay, and FreeCycle, are great places to buy, sell, and trade used items.

Since August, 2007 it has become illegal to discard many kinds of electronics. If your equipment is too old to sell, ensure you recycle it. In the Vancouver area, you can take many electronic items to Free Geek. Elsewhere in B.C., contact the Recycling Council of BC (1 800 667 4321) to find out about recycling electronics in your area.

Location, location, location

If you have a choice about which room you can use as a home office, choose one with good natural light. For people who use their home office during the day, this can reduce or eliminate the need to use lights, in particular overhead lights. A south facing room will tend to have good light year round, and also can be warmed in winter by natural heat.

Wherever your office is located, sitting still at a desk for long periods can make the indoor temperature seem cooler than it normally would. Instead of turning up the heat, put on a pair of slippers and a cozy indoor sweater. They are a sound investment in energy efficiency.

Failing that, I find all the pacing around I do, with my hands pressed against a cup of tea, keeps me pretty warm most of the time. But I do also have a fabulous pair of felted booties that I’d never make it through the winter without.

Nola Poirier is a freelance writer and a key contributor to bchydro.com's Green Guides.

Previous posts by Nola Poirier, who lives on the Sunshine Coast:

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Source: BC Hydro News