At Home More? Here’s How To Curb Electricity Costs

Lib Reid McGowan, an energy data analyst with NC State Energy Management shares ways to reduce utility costs while you’re spending more time at home.

To slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us are spending more time at home than ever. Many of us are also looking at ways that we can manage our expenses.  One area that you might not have considered is the cost of electricity.

The good news is that the cost of the electricity you use to operate your laptop in order to telecommute will be more than offset by the dollars that you would have otherwise spent driving to campus.  Nevertheless, there will likely be increases in your home’s electricity use in the upcoming month, due to both warmer weather and the increased occupancy in your home. However, you may be able to reduce the cost impact by being mindful about how and when you use electricity in your home.

Simple Ways To Save

Here are a few ideas for reducing utility costs. 

  • Ceiling fans and table fans use less energy than air conditioning.  Use fans instead of air conditioning in transitional weather like we are experiencing now.  Once it is officially air conditioning season, using these fans in addition to the AC can allow you to set your thermostat to a higher temperature while still creating comfortable conditions.
  • When doing the laundry or dishwashing, wait until you have full loads instead of running multiple partial loads.  Use cold water for most laundry.
  • Get the whole family in the habit of turning off lights or electronics when they are not in use.  Anything that has an AC adapter will continue to use standby power even when you have turned it off. Plug these devices into a switched power strip and turn them off at the end of the day.

More energy and cost saving tips are available from Duke Energy Progress and Energy Star.

What’s Your Rate?

Depending on your electricity rate, you may be able to trim your utility bill even more. Knowing your electricity rate is the key first step in your cost-saving plan. A Standard Residential Rate charges the same fixed cost per kWh regardless of when it is consumed. A Time Of Use Rate charges varying costs depending on the time of day that you use the energy. Check your utility bill or contact your utility provider to confirm your rate. 

If you have a Time Of Use Rate, timing is key to curbing your energy costs. Depending upon your electricity provider, your electricity costs during on-peak hours may be three-times as high as in off-peak hours. 

Under normal conditions, many families find Time of Use electric rates to be a painless way to reduce their electricity costs because they are typically away from their home during the more costly on-peak hours of the day. 

Now that we are at home all day long, it is important for families who are on Time of Use rates to become more aware of on-peak, off-peak, and “shoulder” time periods that define how their power is priced. Shifting more electricity use to off-peak hours will result in a lower energy bill.

When Timing Is Key

Electricity providers charge Time of Use rate customers more during on-peak hours because that’s when energy is most in demand and when it’s most expensive to provide to customers. Duke Energy Progress, which provides electricity for most households in Wake County, switched to its warm season peak time periods on April 1. Here are the times and the costs for April through September:

TypeTimes (April – Sept.)Number of Hours/WeekCost (Rounded)
On-PeakWeekdays from 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM, excluding holidays25$0.22 – $0.23 (depending on the season) per kWh
ShoulderWeekdays from 11:00 AM – 1:00 PM and 6:00 – 8:00 PM, excluding holidays20$0.11 – $0.12 (depending on the season) per kWh
Off-PeakAll remaining hours plus holidays123$0.07 per kWh
Standard Residential Rate (for comparison)Rate is the same 24/7168$0.09 – $0.10 (depending on the season) per kWh

Shifting your energy usage to off-peak hours is key to reducing your electricity bill. While not all usage can be shifted to off-peak hours, you can impact your bill by making sure that some of your top energy-using activities are shifter to off-peak hours.  The highest impact electricity users to try to avoid during the peak include the clothes dryer, the range/oven, the dishwasher, and the clothes washer (hot water loads in particular.)

While it may be tempting to run the dishwasher or start a load of laundry at lunchtime if you’re at home working or taking classes, that’s the most expensive time of day for these energy-intensive tasks.  If you can wait until the evening or the next morning, or save these chores for the weekend, you’ll pay only one-third as much for the energy to accomplish them.

To put it simply, try to put off most of your discretionary electricity use for after 8 p.m. and before 11 a.m., or on weekends.  Try your hardest to avoid electricity use between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. on weekdays.