In Arizona, it gets hot from late spring until early fall! During these six months or so, it’s not unusual to hear the hum of AC compressors everywhere you go. Understandably, the demand for electricity is highest during the heat of the day! Because of this, our electric utility charges a higher rate per kilowatt hour (kWh) during peak demand hours, which for us starts at 3:00pm and ends at 8:00pm, Monday through Friday. (Of course the Utility knows that most people have their supper before 8:00pm and will likely turn on their stove or oven!)
Minimizing Electricity Usage
Turning off or simply not using devices or appliances during peak demand hours is the easiest way to save electricity. But what about major appliances like hot water heaters that may be hard wired and have no on/off switch? Sure, you could go out to the breaker box and switch that appliance off before 3:00pm and turn it back on after 8:00pm, but that’s not very convenient. And besides, do we really need to keep hot water at 140°F inside the house when it’s almost that hot outside?
Good Candidates for Appliance Timers
In our home, I identified three appliances that would work well being shut off by a timer during all or part of the peak demand hours and still provide their services when needed:
- The upright food freezer in the garage (I know – not the best place to keep a freezer, especially in Arizona, but that’s where it is and where it’s likely to stay).
- The hot water heater, also in the garage.
- A small refrigerator for water bottles in one of the bedrooms.
We wouldn’t normally turn off the garage freezer with perishable food in it, but if we avoid opening the door when it’s off, it will remain at about the same temperature.
As for the hot water heater, since we’re not using major appliances like the washing machine or even the dishwasher during peak hours, we really don’t need it on. The hot water tank is well insulated, so the temperature won’t decrease too much while it’s off.
Plug-In Appliance Timers
The best solution for our freezer and small fridge was to control them each with heavy-duty digital timers from Intermatic. The timers provide up to six “on” and “off” cycles, which should be more than enough to program around any peak demand hours you may have. I set the freezer to shut off at 6:45pm and turn back on at 8:15pm; the times are strategic and allow us to reduce electric usage by two full hours due to the way our utility counts peak demand hours. The food stays frozen and we still reduce electricity usage during the higher rate. I set the small refrigerator in the bedroom to stay off during the entire peak demand time.
Hard Wired Appliance Timers
For the hot water heater, I needed a hard wired solution and installed a timer made specifically for this purpose: the Intermatic EH40 240-Volt Electronic Water Heater Timer. This timer also provides up to six “on” and “off” cycles. I wish I had taken pictures of this DIY project during the installation. Here are a couple images of the finished job:
I used a couple 6 foot, 1/2 inch Sealproof plastic conduits to secure the wire and connections between the timer, the wall, and the water heater. Both sets of connectors and conduit cost about $40; they look great while providing safe and easy access to the timer.
Now the fun part – calculating just how much money we save each month! Our best guess is that we’ve reduced our monthly electric bill between 6-8% by automatically shutting off these three appliances during peak demand hours.
Using an average monthly electric bill of $200 at an average savings of 7%, that’s $14 per month or $168 per year! Since our total costs for supplies and the three timers was about $125, our payback time for this project was about 9 months! As of this writing, we’re going on well over six years with no issues other than annually changing out the AA battery in the hot water heater timer. Not a bad return on our investment!
I’m always learning and would love to hear about the projects you’ve completed to save money! Share them below.