Save on Electricity: Have Dinner in the Afternoon, Do Laundry after Midnight

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Some utilities have introduced “smart” meters, which monitor how much electricity is being used in the community at all hours of the day—and which, because of supply and demand, use tiered pricing structures to charge more during certain “peak” hours. The new pricing also obviously charges less during non-peak hours, so by going against the grain you can save five times what electricity might otherwise cost.

An example, courtesy of the WSJ:

Houston-based Reliant Energy Inc. started offering a rate plan this year that has two prices for electricity in the winter and three in the summer. The highest price occurs from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the summer.

Dennis Banks, a retired computer database designer, signed up for the new Reliant plan because utility bills for his 1,350-square-foot home in Richardson, Texas, have run as high as $600 a month. He has cut his bills in half, he said, by cooking dinner before 4 p.m., when higher prices kick in, and running his electric tools for a new furniture-refinishing business when juice is cheapest.

This is great if you have a flexible schedule. It’s also potentially awful—and really, really costly—if you don’t.

Are You Stupid to Trust Smart Meters, Unit Prices, and Energy Star Labels?