What’s the Least Expensive Time of Day To Run Household Appliances?

African American father and son washing clothes in washing machine at home.
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What’s shaping up to be an expensive winter is already setting in, and families are looking to save money on energy costs any way they can to prepare for what’s coming. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that the price of natural gas will rise by 28% over last winter, heating oil will be 27% more expensive, electricity costs will increase by 10% and propane will go up by 5%.

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The most obvious way to reduce those costs is to consume less energy. However, when it comes to utility bills in the era of high energy inflation, when you consume can be as important as how much

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Your utility company charges you for the electricity you consume either through a fixed-rate or variable-rate payment structure. With fixed-rate plans, you pay the same amount for every kWh of electricity no matter when you use it. This stability can protect you from the ups and downs of the energy market’s notoriously volatile pricing.

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The tradeoff for that predictability and consistency is that a flat-rate structure leaves you only one option for lowering your energy costs — to use less energy. 

But variable-rate plans — sometimes called time-of-use plans, demand-rate plans or off-peak tariffs — charge you less during times of day when demand is low and more during peak hours. This lets you lower your bills both by consuming less overall and by running energy-hogging appliances when electricity costs the least.

Some providers allow customers to choose between flat- and variable-rate billing and others do not. If you have the choice, here’s what you need to know about how the cost of electricity changes throughout the day.

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Avoid Using Major Appliances When Energy Is Expensive

According to Tom’s Guide, electricity is typically cheapest before 8 a.m. and after 7 p.m. Off-peak hours — when it costs the least to do laundry, run the dishwasher and use other major appliances — are generally between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., but the specific hours vary by time zone and season.

Here’s a look at how peak and off-peak times of day vary across the country, according to LG&E, KU, Rocky Mountain Power and Pacific Power.

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Summer

  • Eastern time zone: Peak time is between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Off-peak time is from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays and all hours on weekends and holidays.
  • Central time zone: Peak time is between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Off-peak time is from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekdays and all hours on weekends and holidays.
  • Mountain time zone: Peak time is between 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. Off-peak time is from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. on weekdays and all hours on weekends and holidays.
  • Pacific time zone: Peak time is between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Off-peak is from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

Winter 

  • Eastern time zone: Peak time is between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. and between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. Off-peak time is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
  • Central time zone: Peak time is between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. and from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Off-peak is from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.
  • Mountain time zone: Peak time is between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Off-peak time is from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
  • Pacific time zone: Peak time is between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. Off-peak is from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.
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Save Money by Shifting Your Energy Use Away From Peak Hours

As previously stated, many providers allow customers to choose variable-rate plans. Some, like Pacific Power, add incentives to switch, like guaranteeing you won’t pay above 10% more than you would have with a flat-rate plan during your first year.

The savings can be significant. For example: 

  • Pacific Power charges about $0.06 per kWh for off-peak use, a rate that quadruples to $0.24 during on-peak hours.
  • Rocky Mountain Power charges just under $0.05 for off-peak wintertime usage but nearly $0.15 during peak time.
  • LG&E charges $0.08 off-peak and nearly $0.18 during peak time.

Do some research on your usage and your plan options to find the one that is the most cost-effective for your household.

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About the Author

Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street's investment community in New York City.
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