When the Electric Choice program first allowed consumers to choose their electricity providers, the media made a big deal about the potential savings for consumers. I called around to several companies but found very little difference in rates. A short time later, I discovered another, less well known method of saving on electricity that doesn’t require the hassle of switching companies: the time-of-day plan.
Many electric companies, including mine (Met-Ed), offer lower rates for the electricity used in off-peak hours to customers who choose this plan. By signing up for a time-of-day plan (which requires a time-of-day meter), we have seen significant savings on our electric bill.
In our home, which is heated and air conditioned with an electric heat pump, we are able to keep our off-peak electric usage around 65% simply by running the dishwasher, shower, washing machine, and dryer during the off-peak hours (9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. weekdays, plus all day Saturday and Sunday, during daylight savings time and 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. plus weekends during the winter months). We kept that percentage even higher when my husband and I both worked full-time and no one was home during the day.
On last month’s (typical) electric bill, which showed a use of 1,187 Kilowatt hours with 63.1% off peak, I calculated a savings of nearly $5.00 over what we would have paid on the company’s flat rate plan. The savings are greater, of course, when we are able to increase our off-peak usage and decrease our on-peak usage. On the flip side, we could also wind up paying more for electricity if our on-peak usage goes too high; the rates for the peak times are higher than the company’s flat rates. Met-Ed also has rules in place that prevent customers from switching back and forth between the flat rate and time-of-day rate to get the most beneficial plan each month.
When we first moved into our house, which already had a time-of-day meter installed, the customer service representative described the time-of-day rate plan as a commitment to a change of lifestyle, having to schedule chores by the clock. She suggested saving cooking for off-peak hours, but I haven’t been able to train my stomach to wait for dinner until after 8:00 or 9:00. However, I haven’t found it particularly difficult to keep the off-peak percentages high enough that they are beneficial to us. I load and unload the dishwasher whenever I am able but don’t turn it on until right before bed. I sometimes load the washing machine before bed and run it first thing in the morning; I save the bulk of the laundry for weekends. Some might find scheduling their chores to be a hassle, but those who don’t mind it can easily stretch their household budgets by switching their electric plan to the time-of-day rate. It’s well worth the time to call your local utility to see if they offer such a plan and to calculate if you can save money by joining it – it could mean an extra $100 or more in your bank account at the end of the year not to mention the benefit of reducing electricity use during peak hours.