BY DERRILL HOLLY
Did you know that your local electric cooperative pays its power supplier for the amount of energy used, as well as a demand rate for how much energy is being used at a given time? Since electricity can’t be stored, the power supplier must simultaneously ramp up power generation as it’s needed, which can be very expensive when we all want to kick on our air conditioners during the late afternoon on hot summer days.
Unfortunately, those high fees the co-op pays to the power supplier for high demand must be passed along to you, as a cooperative member-owner. But here’s some good news: By shifting electricity use away from the peak demand hours of 4-9 p.m. on summer weekdays, when the air-conditioning systems in most buildings are running and families are arriving home and using household appliances, you can help the co-op avoid incurring peak demand charges.
Take a hiatus from housework
Avoiding peak energy costs is a good reason to put some chores on hold, at least until power demand dips. For example, consider some of the jobs one kilowatt-hour of electricity can do – before you use it:
- Wash three loads of laundry
- Complete one dryer cycle
- Vacuum rugs twice in an average home
- Iron five shirts
- Run three cycles in a loaded dishwasher
All of these activities easily could be done in the morning or late at night, outside of peak demand times.
Set the thermostat at 78
Your central air-conditioning system or heat pump can play a huge part in controlling your energy use, even if family comfort is a top priority. In fact, your central air conditioning can use as much as one kilowatt-hour of electricity for each 12-minute cycle of cooling.
At 78 degrees, most people are comfortable outside, so why not inside? They’re usually not sensitive enough to notice a small difference in air temperature, but the closer your air conditioner or heat pump setting is to the outdoor temperature, the less your unit will run.
Each degree of temperature difference represents a percentage of the total cooling load. So, when temperatures are in the high 80s, you could reduce your cooling demand 10-15 percent for each degree you set your thermostat above 75 degrees.
Join the fan club
Fans offer an economical alternative to air-conditioning on mild days, and they can pitch in for comfort as temperatures climb. The key is evaporative cooling; a little air blowing across a room helps bring down humidity levels and allows you to raise the thermostat a few degrees.
Set ceiling fans to blow air downward, instead of pulling warmer air upward to get the most value in your cooling zone. Table and ceiling fans will offer more comfort if used to circulate air through areas where you’re most active.
A ceiling fan can operate for about 13 hours per kilowatt-hour of power, while a floor or table fan (depending on size) might run for 10 hours. Turn off fans when you leave a room, because they cool people – not space.
Focus on kitchen comfort
When it comes to heat and humidity, changing your kitchen activities presents a wellspring of opportunities to reduce your household energy demand throughout the day.
Appliances on your countertops or stashed in your pantry could keep you cooler and use less energy. Microwaves use about 60 percent as much energy as full-size ovens, and a toaster oven, pressure cooker or induction cooker consumes about half as much power. Because they’re generally designed to heat food more efficiently in less space, the surface areas available for heating are smaller, reducing waste heat and keeping kitchens cooler.
Finally, replace the old lightbulbs in the kitchen (and everywhere else in your home too) with energy-efficient – and cooler – LEDs.
Your co-op can help
For more warm-weather energy-saving ideas, visit your local electric cooperative’s website or call the office. If you don’t know how to get in touch with your co-op, go to www.livingwithenergyiniowa.com and click on Go to My Co-op at the top; then follow the instructions on the next page.
Also, be sure to check the Touchstone Energy® Cooperatives website at touchstoneenergy.com. Go to the Together We Save section for everything from quick tips to an interactive Home Energy Adventure that will help you analyze and improve your home’s energy efficiency.
Derrill Holly writes on cooperative issues for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.