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6 Things You Must Do if You Have a Smart Meter

A Work Around Strategy to Save Energy if on Time of Use Rates and Smart Meters

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If you have a smart meter installed on your home tracking your electricity consumption, chances are that you are also being charged time-of-use rates.  That means you are charged for electricity based on when you use it, since hourly consumption detail is available. Smart meters and time-of-use electricity rates will actually cost you more in energy, unless you're proactive and change your electricity use behavior. 

Since time-of-use time schedules will vary, you'll first need to become acquainted with your utility's program, so you know exactly when the on peak, mid peak and off peak time slots are, and aim to reschedule some tasks to off peak (the cheapest) or mid peak (mid-range).  And watch to line up those time frames with the relevant season, since some utilities have summer and winter blocks which vary in on, mid and off peak times. For a reminder, post those time schedules in the kitchen, garage and laundry area.

A little rearranging of what you usually do electricity-wise, will go a long way to keep your hydro bills down.  And your household budget depends on it!  Of course, not everything you would do during the day can be rescheduled, but some tasks can be.  And that can help you to mitigate those ever-increasing energy bills.  While there are many other ways you can cut down electricity use during peak periods, I've focused in on those alternatives related to high-energy use appliances.  Here's how to to reschedule your electricity-guzzling chores:

1. Doing Laundry - Divide and Conquer

For those who cannot function in the wee hours of the morning or late at night, consider dividing your wash into loads and run your washer and dryer for one load every evening, as soon as the off peak time slot begins.  If the cycle is too long and you're an early-to-bed type of person, use a shorter cycle and consider hanging the wash to dry - a further savings.  I find dress clothing can easily be washed on a shorter cycle and hung to dry overnight on plastic or non-rusting clothes hangers.

If your washer has a delay cycle, you could schedule it for those off peak times at night or to wash in the early morning at which time, you can finish the laundry depending on the rate schedules.  Most time-of-use rate schedules allow for weekends and holidays to charge on the lowest, off peak rate. That means, you could plan to sort and wash on those days, rather than the late evening, if that's more convenient for you. But sorting and dividing your washloads may be your best strategy to decrease energy use.

For further energy savings, wash most of your clothes in cold water and always chose 'cold' to rinse.  Use the appropriate spin cycle to ensure the most water is squeezed out of your wash - it will take less time to dry.  Ignore this for dress clothing though, it should spin on a low or delicate spin to avoid setting in wrinkles. 

The 'wrinkle-free' setting on a dryer is a wonderful feature to have, but unfortunately, it cycles on/off to keep wrinkles at bay, when the load has not been removed from the dryer. This can cost you, especially during on peak rate times. Either listen for the dryer end-of-load signal, or turn the wrinkle-free setting off, if you plan to 'ignore' the laundry anyways.

Since the dryer is a high-energy appliance, don't accept the preset drying times as standard.  Instead, experiment and reduce drying times - this is easily done if your dryer has a variable timed cycle.  Sometimes 25 minutes is sufficient for a dryer load; rather than your usual 45 minutes. On the weekends, catch up on large laundry items such as comforters, towels and bedding.

2. Dishwasher - Do Them Later & Don't Feel Guilty

You may have trained your family to do dishes right away and to resist the urge to 'do them later'.  That was good training, but that was then and we're now in a smart meter era.  This chore is now best delayed to a cheaper electricity use period, either mid peak or off peak.  So enjoy a quiet after-dinner conversation or evening entertainment without having to listen to a running dishwasher.  And don't feel guilty one bit that you delayed this task - you'll be saving money.

But it is advisable to do the general clean-up such as wash the table, counters and load the dishwasher before settling down.  Have it all ready to either run the 'delay' feature or manually turn it on later in the evening. For further energy savings, use a shorter cycle when appropriate or the econo dry feature if you have one; it allows the dishes to air dry after the rinse and saves omits the heating cycle.

3. Heat and Cool - But Only When & Where You Need it!

Just when you thought programming that new energy-savings thermostat was a thing of the past, you may want to revisit that dial.  It may save you money if you lower the thermostat near the end of a high-use period and increase very early in the morning before you start the day, rather than simply lowering the heat for the overnight, when it's actually cheaper to run.

A zone heater where you need it can also save you money and if you have a heating furnace, remember to change filters regularly to keep it operating efficiently.  It makes no sense to waste electricity at today's prices. Using alternative heating sources is a good way to reduce energy costs, but when it comes to heating with wood, there's lot to know.

When it comes to central air, dropping a few degrees may go unnoticed as far as comfort is concerned and it can mean some energy savings.  You should also ensure that you are not cooling areas of the home not lived in, such as utility and storage rooms.   And consider using a zone cooler or room air conditioner in the area where you spend the most time, rather than cooling down the entire home.

Look for non-electric ways to keep your home comfortable during the summer.  A ceiling fan can be a big help, but make sure it's on the right setting. And drapes closed while the sun is shining, can keep the living room more comfortable.  Check out my other energy conservation tips for more ideas.  

4. Shun the Oven - Cook With Counter Appliances

Especially during high on peak electricity rate times, use more counter appliances such as cookers, slow cookers, rice cookers, breadmakers, griddles and grills, because they will use less energy than your range oven or cooktop. Consider more barbecue or outside grilling meals during warm weather and use the microwave for warming or reheating.  If you're planning on a new stove in the near future, consider a convection oven which cooks much more quickly than conventional ovens, or an induction cooktop that also uses less energy because of its heating technology.

5. Refrigerator & Freezer - Efficiency Rules

When it comes to an older refrigerator, the word efficiency was probably not tops in its design features back then, certainly not like today's models.  And years of use usually leaves its mark in way of inefficient door seals and compressors that guzzle energy in an attempt to look functional.  An older refrigerator is costing you big time in way of electricity and if you want to factor in convenience (or the lack of), your savings in energy and time, can be higher if you update an older refrigerator to a more efficient, well-organized Energy Star rated model.

And capacity is something you should consider as part of your energy-saving strategy.  Refrigerators and freezers are connected to power 24/7 and that can be a waste if the capacity is much larger than what you actually need leaving a lot of empty space to cool or freeze.  A freezer that is mostly empty during certain seasons, yet still plugged in 'just in case', could be unplugged when not needed. 

Consider more efficient models, downsize to an appropriate capacity for your household needs and unplug a freezer that you really only need during holidays or when the garden harvest is ready.

6. Related Resources

It may not seem like much, but these little steps can reap big savings when it comes to your electricity bill.  A little rescheduling and the occasional cooking method change is all it takes.  If you plan on replacing some appliances soon, look for Energy Star rated appliances and compare Energy Guide labels to get an idea of how much energy they will use on the average.  Though these estimates are not accurate by any means, they're really the only way to compare (average) consumption of certain models when you're looking at buying an appliance.

And remember that some home appliances such as refrigerators and freezers that are decades old, can cost you about four to five times more in energy use, than newer more energy-efficient models.  You may also want to check your home for wasted energy in way of phantom power - which is truly an energy waste.

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