Sunday, November 17, 2013

Buying Off-Peak Electricity

Pennsylvania is one of the states that encourages consumers to choose their electric suppliers, and today, I signed up for an off-peak electric plan. Compared to plans that charge the same price all the time, this plan charges a price 80 percent higher during peak hours on weekday afternoons. The idea is to encourage you to shift electric use to off-peak hours, during mornings, midday, evenings, nights, weekends, and major holidays when there is excess electric supply capacity. During off-peak hours, the off-peak plan’s price is 20 percent lower than comparable plans. This pricing is possible only if your electric use is measured with a digital meter that keeps track of the time of day. The meters on my house were replaced with the new digital ones just a month ago.

An off-peak plan is not meant for anyone who runs air conditioning all summer. If you insist on keeping cool, air conditioning can be half of your total electric consumption over the course of the year, and almost half of this will fall during the peak hours. But if you do not use air conditioning at all, or if you are out of the house on weekdays and the air conditioner is off while you are out, it seems to me you would have to save money with the off-peak discount.

There isn’t the same issue with heating. If you use electric heating, you can heat up the house in the morning, then turn the heat off for the afternoon. Afternoon is the time of day when a house gets the maximum solar heating effect, so even without adjusting the thermostat, you use less heat in the afternoon.

In my case, I can save more money if I can put off cooking and using hot water until off-peak hours. I know there are days in the summer when there is nothing on in my house but the computer, stereo, and refrigerator during the peak afternoon hours. Perhaps the off-peak electric plan will encourage me to follow that pattern more often.