Do you use more electricity in the summer or the winter?
Summer load is almost exclusively air conditioning, irrigation, electric ovens, or electric clothes dryers running from 4-8 p.m. on hot, dry days. If you come home in the afternoon and turn down the thermostat because the house has been left warmer during the day, do a couple of loads of laundry before dinner, or use an electric oven to cook the evening meal, you will find those habits can all contribute to summer peak loads. Many distribution cooperatives have rates that incentivize you not to do these things when you get home, but to do them later in the evening.
Winter high load periods occur similarly in the afternoon so some of these same habits contribute to an afternoon winter load. In the winter, you are not turning down the air conditioner, but turning up your electric heat. The winter season has a second peak period each day. That time is from 5-9 a.m. and occurs for several reasons. If you are one of the many who like to sleep in a cool house and warm it up when you get up in the morning, guess what: If you have electric heat, you might be contributing to winter peaks. If you have electric portable heaters that warm up the bathroom, or other cooler spots in your home, you might be pushing the winter peak up. If your heating system that has a function that indicates “auxiliary heat” that function probably makes you a high electric user. My very favorites, as a seller of electricity, are “pool heaters” or “stock tank heaters.” I know these are necessary to keep water warm and from freezing, but these are very high usage and not very efficient items.
Most times, circumstances do not allow us to avoid these high usage times without a lot of inconvenience. It isn’t necessary to spend a lot of time worrying about how to save electricity or avoid peak periods, except during very cold or hot periods. The point is to be aware of when these times occur and, when not inconvenient, to avoid high-use items during those times as that habit can save a bit of money.
Looking into the future, if you have any thought of purchasing an electric vehicle, try to think of ways not to charge them during these summer or winter peak periods I have identified. A good habit would be to charge them later in the evening or while you are asleep at night. Electricity is its cheapest then and you can really save money. Many cooperatives have programs to incentivize this type of behavior.
Knowing when peak periods are likely and, when possible, reducing usage during those periods is good for each of us as consumers as it avoids building pricey new power facilities. It might also reduce a little carbon. On the other hand, you can use as many LED Christmas lights as you want, because they use very little electricity and they are lighted at night when power is cheaper.
By Gary Roulet
Board President | Oklahoma Association of Electric Cooperatives