Timing Is Everything: 3 Tips for Shifting Energy Usage
Think for a moment, what’s the first thing you do when you get home from work or school? Turn on the air-conditioning, TV and all of your lights? Take a shower? Preheat the oven to start dinner? Re-charge your gadgets? Start a load of laundry? If you answered yes to any of the above, you’re not alone.
While we all have our own routines, in general, the majority of our schedules tend to follow the same pattern. A pattern that causes entire communities to increase their energy usage at the same time, placing an enormous strain on our nation’s interconnected electrical system. While household electronics have become more energy efficient in recent years, every day we seem to acquire more plugged in gadgets and gizmos, build new homes and businesses, and continue to rely on electricity to sustain our lifestyles. Energy providers across the country are already incorporating renewable sources of generation such as wind and solar into their portfolios to help meet day-time demand, but this end of day “peak” in electrical consumption forces power providers to rely on costly “peaker plants”. These peaker plants are capable of assuring electrical delivery by producing energy at rapid rate–using expensive and environmentally harmful resources such as fossil fuels and coal–in turn passing the cost onto you, the consumer.
So, how can you shift your energy usage off peak?
1. Shift Energy Intensive Activities to Off Peak Hours
If possible, avoid energy intensive activities during peak hours. Adjust your schedule so that you’re not using your washer, dryer, oven, and dishwasher all at the same time. Appliances that generate heat and steam are among some of the most energy hungry devices in your household. Many appliances now feature a “delay” setting that allows a device to begin operation after a set number of hours. For example, you can load your dirty dishes into your dishwasher after dinner, but “delay” the wash until the middle of the night when there’s less demand for energy on the grid.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Appliance Energy Calculator is a useful tool to help you figure out which devices in your home use the most electricity.
2. Practice Conservation
Simple, small changes in behavior, when performed by entire communities, can yield large results. During hours of peak demand, turn off un-necessary lights, TV’s and electronics in empty rooms. Unplug electronics that consume energy even when they are in standby mode. Set timers on energy hungry appliances such as pool pumps and spa heathers. Depending on the weather, open or close doors and windows in addition to adjusting your HVAC system a usually unnoticeable 1-2 degrees.
3. Enroll in Your Energy Provider’s Automatic Energy Reduction Program
In an effort to battle peak demand, many energy providers across the country are already offering their customers a chance to be part of the solution: often in exchange for bill reductions or free in home energy management systems. Enabled by the smart grid, energy providers can install a smart thermostat or a switch–typically on your hot water heater–that allows them to make small reductions in your energy usage. Your electric company can automatically adjust the temperature in your home by a few degrees or cycle your hot water heater off for 15-20 minute increments in an effort to reduce strain on the entire gird.
Contact your energy provider directly to learn about the energy saving options available in your specific neighborhood.
Learn more about the importance of reducing peak demand and the energy conservation opportunities enabled by the smart grid.