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Reduce Utility Bills

January 23, 2008

Lower Costs with Off-Peak Use

Filed under: Water, Electricity, Natural Gas — Jan @ 7:05 am

Even with work days no longer confined to Monday through Friday and hours are often outside of 8am to 5pm, most people heat and cool their homes, wash dishes, take showers or do laundry at about the same time during the day. This heavy use of energy causes a peak demand for electricity.Utility companies often charge more during these peak times.

Here in Tucson there is a program so that Tucson Electric (TEP) users receive a reduced electric rate for shifting energy use from peak periods of the day to off-peak times. The electric company benefits because there is a more balanced and efficient use of our generating resources. Check with your utility company to see if there is a Time of Use (TOU) program in your area.

How it works with TEP:
TEP replaces your conventional meter, free of charge, with a meter that tracks the times of day you use electricity, then calculates the kilowatt-hour rates for those periods.

One of the requirements with the TOU program is that TEP must have access to the meter at all times. (This is going to keep me from participating because I have a large dog that may be in my yard.) The meter readers must be able to stand directly in front of the meter to read it without interference from locked gates, foliage or other impediments.

You must also stay enrolled in the program for one year. After a year, if you find that the program is not suitable for your work schedule and lifestyle, you can switch back to standard residential service.

TOU schedule
Peak and shoulder periods only occur during certain hours, Monday through Friday, excluding selected holidays.

The definition of peak, shoulder and off-peak varies by season. Under TOU Price Schedule No. 70, the summer hours apply to electricity usage from May through October, and winter hours apply from November through April.

During summer weekdays, the peak period is from 1 to 6 p.m. and the shoulder period is from 6 to 8 p.m.

During winter weekdays, there are two peak periods: a morning peak period from 7 to 11 a.m., and an evening peak period from 6 to 9 p.m. There is not a winter shoulder period.

While the service charge is more for the Time-of-use program, the difference may be recovered by using electricity during off-peak hours. The table below compares prices based on schedules set in March of 1996.

How do to shift usage to off-peak:

Shifting usage is simple: Do tasks that consume electricity during off-peak periods rather than during peak or shoulder periods. For instance:

  • Set timers on pools or spa filters to run during off-peak hours.
  • Operate washing machines, dryers, dishwashers and non-essential appliances during off-peak hours.
  • Adjust your air conditioning thermostat to a higher setting and heater to a lower setting during peak and shoulder hours or when you are not at home.
  • Install a timer on water heaters so that they operate mainly during off-peak hours.
  • Turn off lights during peak and shoulder hours.
  • Enjoy recreational backing and electricity-consuming hobbies during weekends and holidays, which are off-peak hours.

It may take a little planning, but for many utility users, the TOU program helps reduce utility bills.

January 21, 2008

Utility Bill Deposits

Filed under: Water, Electricity, Natural Gas, Helpful Hints — Jan @ 9:31 am

Utility bill deposits will tie up money that can be used for other things. Avoid paying deposits whenever possible. Deposits are charged for the following reasons:

  • Initial service
  • Repeated late payments
  • Reconnection

Initial service deposit: This deposit may be a set amount or based on a credit check. Utility companies will pay you the little interest that is earned from them holding your money.  Having good credit will reduce/eliminate the amount of a deposit required. If you do pay a deposit, find out the following:

  • How long the deposit is held (number of months)
  • The requirements to have the deposit returned (how many consecutive on time payments)
  • How deposit is returned (credit on account or check)
  • Interest percentage earned and when it is paid

Do your best to get the utility deposit back as quickly as possible. Even when you don’t earn your deposit back, you are entitled to the interest on a regularly scheduled basis.

Repeated late payments: Some utility companies charge additional deposits for consecutive late payments. Find out your utility company’s policy on that and avoid additional deposits. The additional deposits will be returned to you at different dates than initial and previously charged deposits. Find out the details so you can get the utility deposit back as quickly as possible.

Reconnection deposit: Some utility companies not only charge a non-refundable fee for reconnection but an additional deposit. Find out the policy for your utility company. It may be worth the extra effort needed to avoid turn off.

Check into community help that may be available to assist with paying utility bills. There is often additional help available to pay your utility bill once you receive a utility turn-off notice. Often the help is only offered one time per person or one time per year. Make sure you have no other options available to you before you use this resource.

Utility companies often have special programs for low income homes. Check on the guidelines, you might be surprised at the income requirements. Many people, who don’t realize it, are close enough to the poverty level to qualify for a reduced rate that will reduce utility bills.

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