August 2018 EnergyWiseSM Tip: Summer Peaks
Why does your electric bill seem to shoot up during the summer? Some people question whether their electric meter is registering correctly. Most blame air-conditioning as the culprit. While cooling usually consumes the largest portion of home energy bills during hot months, there is another reason why you must reach deeper into your pocket to pay summer electric bills.
To support high electricity usage on very hot days, your electric utility often requires supplemental electricity from additional generating facilities. For most utilities in the U.S., these peak periods occur weekdays, between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sometimes "peaker" plants, which run on natural gas and usually do not operate 97 to 99 percent of the year, can be switched on quickly to satisfy periods of peak power demand. Other times, less-efficient fuel oil and coal plants are added to the generation mix to meet increased electrical needs.
Estimates show that 10 to 20 percent of the overall annual cost of providing electricity comes from supplying electrical demand during the 100 most-expensive hours of the year. In Nebraska these "peaks" usually occur during the summer; therefore, most Nebraska utilities bill their customers using a summer rate. Some utilities begin their summer rate period as early as May 15 and run as late as October 15. In general, summer rates are often designed 25 to 35 percent higher than winter rates to cover additional peaking power costs.
Is there anything you can do to reduce the cost of your summer electrical use? Absolutely! Consider this: the wholesale purchase price your utility must pay for the electricity you use is significantly impacted by what time of day you are using it. If you use it most during the peak period, your utility will pay more for additional energy resources needed. But if you can reduce or shift your usage to another time of day, your utility will pay less. That reduces the need for future rate increases to you.
Here are easy ways for you to help your electric utility and reduce your "peak" energy use:
Shift as much of your energy use as you can to before noon or after 9 p.m.
Your microwave uses about two-thirds less energy than your stove. Better yet, grill outside.
Most dishwashers use less water and energy than washing dishes by hand. Use the air-dry setting on your dishwasher to save even more.
Fill your refrigerator. Filling your fridge with lots of food and beverages will keep it from warming up quickly when the door is open – causing it to run for a long time after the door is closed. Just remember to leave sufficient room around items so chilled air can properly circulate.
Set your air conditioning thermostat to 78°F when you are home and 85°F or off when you are away. Using ceiling or room fans allows you to set the thermostat higher because air movement will make the room feel cooler. When you leave the room, don’t forget to turn the fan off.
Do your laundry by using the cold water setting on your washer. Line-dry clothes whenever you can.
When you need to use the clothes dryer, run full loads, use the moisture-sensing setting, and clean the lint trap after each use.
Unplug electronic devices and chargers when they are not in use. Turn computers and printers off at the power strip.
Unplug and recycle that spare refrigerator in the garage if you don’t really need it.
Replace dirty air conditioner filters. Plugged filters restrict airflow and can cause the system to run longer.
Install and use window shading inside to reduce heat gain while the sun is shining.
Install patio covers and awnings, and plant trees where appropriate to shade your home.
Have a cooling system tune-up completed on your HVAC system to reduce energy needed for air-conditioning.
Replace your standard electric hot water heater with a heat pump water heater that provides cooling while heating your water.
Your local utility and Nebraska Public Power District want to help you make the most of your energy dollar this summer while keeping you cool. For more ideas on how you can make your home or business EnergyWise
SM, along with possible energy efficiency financial incentives for the cooling system tune-up and heat pump water heater mentioned above, contact your local utility or visit www.nppd.com.