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Free Electricity on Nights and Weekends

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Summary:

“Free nights and weekends” deals – those are for cell phones, right? Well increasingly they are also for electricity: since power tends to cost more at busy times, power companies are offering custom electricity rate plans that allow you to save big on your electricity bill. Here’s why, and how your washer and a little planning will help you save:

Freeelec

As discussed in our previous post, the cost to supply electricity to your home varies depending on the time of day and day of the week. It’s more expensive for utilities to provide power at “peak” times when everyone is using lots of electricity at once than “off-peak” times when overall electricity consumption is lower. Under a standard single rate plan, the higher peak expense ends up getting passed down to each consumer in the form of higher overall electricity rates, which isn’t fair to those who don’t use much electricity during those peak times – they’re saving everybody money, but getting nothing out of it. Luckily, some power companies are offering electricity plans that let consumers take advantage of the peak and off-peak cost difference for serious savings.

Save Money with Free ElectricityOne way they do this is to offer dynamic time-of-use pricing: rate plans that reflect the different prices actually paid by the power company. You sign up to a plan where electricity used at, say, 11pm costs significantly less than the same amount of electricity used at 5pm. So if you tend to use appliances at off-peak times anyway where the rates are lower and are willing to turn up your thermostat for a few hours in the day, you will save money compared to the single-rate electricity plan. 

Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) offers a Time-of-Use plan that breaks down rates into three electricity price categories depending on the time of day and time of year. The low off-peak rate on that plan in the summer is 25% less than the company’s standard single summer rate, so shifting power use to off-peak times can really pay off. NRG’s Reliant has a similar model, with three summer price categories of peak, standard, and off-peak. If you get into the habit of pre-cooling your home and turning the thermostat up a notch during peak hours, your power bill will reward you for it.

Similarly ConEdison of New York offers a Time-of-Use plan to residential customers that has lower electricity rates on the weekends, holidays, and weeknights with higher electric rates rates at all other times. You can decide how much you want to alter your habits: hard core savers can pack all their electricity use into the cheaper hours, running the dishwasher at night and doing laundry on the weekends. More and more appliances have delay start buttons, which allow you to schedule when they run. You may even have that feature already and never paid attention to it! 

How much can you save? If you take TruSmart’s Free Sunday plan and do your 4-5 weekly loads of laundry on that day, that will save you about $125 per year if you have an average size 10 year old washer. Not bad … especially if Sunday is already your laundry day! 

These pricing options contrast to direct load control programs discussed in our previous post in that they put the consumer in charge: in the load control programs (which some of these utilities also offer), we allow utilities to control our appliances during times of peak demand – and get paid for it. With dynamic pricing, we still control our appliances but have a strong financial incentive to manage our power usage wisely. 

That’s where the similarity to cell phone plans comes in: with free nights and weekends, you can still choose to call Mom at noon on a weekday, but you’re likely to save a long chat for after 9 pm because when that call is free. Same with TXU’s RightTimePricingSM plan, where electricity costs you $0.00 per kWh on nights and weekends – perfect for those who are at the office all week and do their vacuuming, laundry, cooking and TV-watching on the weekends.

The prize for offering the most customized options goes to DirectEnergy’s Pennsylvania plans, where customers can choose among free power Fridays, half off weekends, free nights from 7-11 pm and more – something to fit every lifestyle and laundry habit!

By Lisa Zelljadt, you can find me on Google+

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