This story is part of CNET's Home Tips collection of practical tips on how to get the most out of your house, inside and out.
Energy prices are rising across the country, and it is important to understand that the energy you use at home does not always cost the same. While the price of electricity for standard electricity plans remains stable, utility companies are increasingly offering time-of-use plans, which charge more for electricity during peak hours but provide lower service during off-peak periods.
Think of it like Uber's surge pricing. When electricity is high in demand and the grid is strained with lots of people plugged in, prices are higher. When things arent so busy, you can get better pricing. If your utility company has you on a time-of-use plan, you can optimize your electricity usage to the days when electricity is at its lowest price. (Weve also got advice on the best time of day to wash dishes to save money.)
Read more: 2022's Best Dishwasher
What are the hours of peak activity?
Peak hours, sometimes referred to as on-peak hours, are the hours of the day when electricity demand is greatest. During this time period, you will be paying the highest rate per kilowatt-hour (kWh) used.
While some electricity usage will be inevitable, whether it is your refrigerator that keeps your food cold or your security system that is always on and protecting your home, peak hours are a good time to do tasks that can wait. If youre running a major appliance, whether it is your dishwasher or washing machine, it will cost you more during peak hours.
What are the definitions of off-peak hours?
Off-peak hours are typically the times when electricity prices are lower than peak hours, meaning that there is less overall demand and you will not have to pay a premium for each kWh that you use.
Off-peak hours are a great time to do those more energy-intensive tasks that you may be waiting for you. While it may not be the most convenient, you may save money on your monthly electricity bill if you do your tasks during off-peak hours.
Why do utility companies use time-of-use rates?
Utility companies know when grid stress will be at its highest. They need to ensure that their power facilities are up to the task of serving all of these customers. When demand increases, these businesses may have to generate more electricity, which can cost more. This additional cost is passed on to the consumer through time-of-use rates, which charge more for electricity when you use it during peak hours.
When are the peak hours?
Peak hours are determined by the time of year and region of the country. As a general rule, peak hours are the time during which most people return from work for the day. This is when people are turning on their lights, turning up their televisions, and staying in their homes for the night. All of this requires more electricity than usual.
Here's a breakdown of peak and off-peak times in Eastern, Central, Mountain, and Pacific times zones.
|Time zone||Peak hours||Off-peak hours|
|Eastern||2-6 p.m.||6-2 p.m. (next day)|
|Central||1-5 p.m.||5-1 p.m. (next day)|
|Mountain||8 a.m.-11 p.m.||11 p.m.-8 a.m.|
|Pacific||5-9 p.m.||9-5 p.m. (next day)|
|Time Zone||Peak hours||Off-peak hours|
|Eastern||6-10 a.m.; 6-10 p.m.||10 a.m.-6 p.m.; 10 p.m.-6 a.m.|
|Central||5-9 a.m.; 5-9 p.m.||9 a.m.-5 p.m.; 9 p.m.-5 a.m.|
|Mountain||7 a.m.-10 p.m.||10 p.m.-7 a.m.|
|Pacific||6-10 a.m.; 5-8 p.m.||10 a.m.-5 p.m.; 8 p.m.-5 a.m.|
Additional money-saving strategies
If you can time your energy-intensive tasks to Saturday and Sunday, you can often save yourself a lot of money when it comes to your monthly energy bill. You can also purchase a solar battery that will keep you from using the internet during peak hours.
You may also want to consider installing motion sensors in your house that will ensure your lights are switched on while you are away from home. For example, if your appliances arent using, you can unplug your appliances that you arent using, make sure your furnace is not running as much during peak hours, and turn off appliances that you don't need.