At the best of times, household chores can be a challenge, given the busy pace of life, the many activities in which families engage, and frankly, interest and energy after a hard day’s work. But factor in “time of use” electricity rates and it’s a wonder I ever get anything done.
For a few years now, electricity rates here have been determined by the time of day at which they are consumed. At peak demand times, the rates are higher. When demand is low, electricity rates are cheaper. In a nutshell, the lowest rates are on Saturdays, Sundays and evenings after 7:00 p.m.
Has this changed the pattern in which I use electricity? You bet it did!
When inspiration and energy are there, from the time I get home until 7:00 p.m., I find myself in preparation mode: sorting laundry, loading the dishwasher, prepping ingredients, cleaning bathrooms, scooping or cleaning the litter box and doing chores that don’t consume much electricity. But at 7:01, the rubber gloves are off, the running shoes are on and as if a starter’s pistol was shot, I run around the house, turning on the electrical appliances.
Not only is this multi-tasking at its best, but it is also how I keep my cardio up in the running off-season.
I sometimes imagine myself causing a neighbourhood-wide brown-out by flicking on the dryer, the washer, the oven, the dishwasher and anything else that happens to be on, all within the same minute. It hasn’t happened yet, but wow, what power that would be!
I admit that there are times that I wish we could turn back time, and be able to run the appliances whenever we feel like it and not face the jolting experience of an inflated electricity bill.
For example, if I had a tough day at work want to go to bed early, the 7:00 p.m. change in rates does not allow for a huge window of opportunity to get things done. And let’s call it like it is, I am not going to sacrifice sleep to run the dryer, the vacuum and the oven in the middle of the night and benefit from the cheaper rates.
I feel a great deal of empathy for young families for whom laundry is an endless loop of spin cycles. When there is consistently so much laundry to be done, it is not like deferring till 7:00 p.m. the next day is always feasible, when that time slot already has a reservation booked under the name “toddler laundry”.
Similarly, for senior citizens on a fixed income, waiting until 7:00 p.m. or weekends to defer electricity consuming activities must be a huge adjustment, especially on given days when they may be home and have the free time to do it.
If I book a day off work and plan to get ahead in my gluten-free batch cooking and baking, because the freezer is getting low on prepared meals, am I going to sit around all day prepping ingredients and waiting until 7:00 p.m. to start cooking 3 recipes simultaneously? Not really. I just have to suck it up and accept that if I do it during the day, my cooking will be at the higher electricity rate, whether I like it or not.
I understand the reasons for time of use rates, in trying to reduce consumer demand at peak times, and redirect to times when demand is lower. In turn, this reduces the need for increased capacity to produce more electricity or importing electricity at higher cost.
My own solution is to strike a compromise. I try to defer as much as I can until the lowest rates kick in. If that doesn’t work, I then try to slot activities into mid-peak rates, so I can still get some work done and not incur the highest costs. And when those occasions come up when that’s not possible, then I just bite the bullet and do the work when it needs to get done. Fortunately, the latter doesn’t happen too often.
If my literary idol, Erma Bombeck were still alive today, I am sure she would have chimed in with a humourous take on time of use rates, maybe something like “The bright side to ‘time of use’ electricity rates is that it dramatically reduced the likelihood of my ever seeing another kitchen appliance under the Christmas tree with my name on it.”
Since the arrival of the time of use rates, my electricity bills have been a little higher some months and a little lower for others, but not by very much. The bottom line is that the power is in my hands to reschedule my electricity consumption when it makes sense to do so… to the extent possible.
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