Timing is Everything - How Staggering Your Energy Use Could Save You a Bundle

The price of electricity can vary from day to day and even by hour. Are you getting the best rates on your energy bill?

If you throw in a load of laundry at five o'clock on a weekday afternoon, it will cost you somewhere in the region of ~73 cents, depending on the efficiency of your equipment. But did you know that if you delay that chore until late in the evening, you could pay just ~34 cents?

California is in the process of rolling out “time-of-use pricing” designed to encourage electricity consumers to reduce consumption and run appliances during periods of lower demand, when power tends to come from cheaper, cleaner sources.

Across the state, residential electricity consumers are charged a premium when they consume power during weekday peak periods - generally from 4PM  to 9PM. 


What does ‘Time Of Use Pricing’ mean for us, the consumers?

If you’re really wanting to geek out on this topic and get the very best rates (like we do!), you can find out when electricity is cheaper by examining the energy market. When consumer demand for energy is low, you’ll see the best energy prices. Seasonally, this falls during the spring and fall months when temperatures are mild. During summer and winter, energy use increases due to cooling and heating needs, meaning higher electricity rates and hefty energy bills. But essentially it means … 


The price of electricity can vary from day to day and even by hour. 


With time-of-use rates in place, the amount of money you pay to do something like a load of laundry or running the dishwasher depends on when you use electricity. 


There are (typically) three periods:


  • Off-peak, when demand for electricity is lowest. California households and small businesses use the majority of their electricity – nearly two thirds of it – during off-peak hours. Typically this falls before 4PM or after 9PM, any day of the week.


  • Mid-peak, when demand for electricity is moderate. These periods are during the daytime, but not the busiest times of day. Typically this falls between the hours of 4PM and 9PM on weekends. 


  • On-peak, when demand is highest. These are the busiest times of day – generally when people are cooking, starting up their computers and running heaters or air conditioners. Typically this falls between the hours of 4PM and 9PM on weekdays.  


Ways to save money on your energy bill with Time of Use rates


You could save a significant amount of money on your monthly energy bill by doing household chores at times when electricity is cheaper. Here are some of our favorite tips: 


  1. If you typically work during the day, you can eliminate large amounts of electricity use by unplugging your devices when you’re not home or plugging them into a smart plug which will automatically power them down. Plug them in only during the late evening when energy is cheapest and you are home to use them.


  1. Notice the carpet could use vacuuming? Hold off on energy-intensive household chores until the weekend when the price of electricity is lower. 


  1. Appliances like the washer-dryer and dishwasher often have a ‘delayed start’ feature. This means you can load your dishwasher right after dinner at 6:00 PM but push a button so it doesn’t actually start running until nighttime when energy is cheaper. 


  1. Sign up for OhmConnect and we will alert you during times when energy is in high demand … and we’ll even pay you to reduce! All PG&E, SCE, SDG&E and Toronto Hydro customers are eligible to participate. Find out more about this free program, here.

Katie Overmonds

Katie is an award-winning journalist and digital strategist with more than 10 years of experience in print and digital media and a passion for the environment and fighting climate change.

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