What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hydro-One Time-of-Use (TOU) Prices

Towards the end of 2008 there were rumours of Hydro One, our electricity provider, going to a terms-of-use (TOU) electricity rates. I think it was in February that they came out to install our Smart meter. What the Smart meter allows Hydro One to do is read the meter via satellite eliminating physical meter readings. Now if you are in town or a city in Ontario meter reading is done monthly. If you are in a rural setting it is very different in that you get two months of estimate billing and one month of actual billing so essentially in rural areas your meter is actually read quarterly. This results in some very strange readings like our last December bill that showed us using 1 kWh per day when we average about 20 kWh which is hard to average due to the estimated billing. Then the estimates take into consideration the average electricity usage which means in the summer higher bills due to air conditioning despite the fact we had our air conditioning on for all of 5 days this past year. There has been a lot of complaints regarding the TOU metering but I for one am looking forward to it because I will be able to monitor our electricity usage online and it will eliminate the estimate billing.

According to the TOU pricing off-peak cost per kWh will be 4.2¢, mid-peak cost 7.6¢ per kWh and on-peak hours 9.1¢ per kWh in comparison to our current flat rate fee of 5.8¢ per kWh upto the threshold of 1,000 kWh then 6.7¢ per kWh above that threshold. So on first glance it looks like our hydro rates are going increase considerably. About 56% of our electric bill is service charges based on kWh used. So the cost per kWh is increasing but this will not affect the service charges based on kWh used. They are saying that if you shift your energy use to off-peak hours you can save money but looking at their pie charts it's easy to see this is not quite so easy. But what does this really mean? Essentially a large majority of Ontario households will change the way they use electricity from 7 am to 9 pm on weekdays year round.

We have high efficiency (HE), EnergyStar® qualified appliances. I'm home most days so can easily shift cooking and because we have HE appliances any shifting is going to have a minimum effect. They are suggesting running the dishwasher at after 9 pm or on weekends as well as doing laundry on the weekends. Well that is fine and dandy if you are a household of 2 but really I don't see much of a shift in energy usage for us. I usually run the dishwasher after 9 pm and the washer on weekends anyway so there won't be a change for us. I will likely shift more baking and canning to the weekends when the rates are cheaper but other than that there won't be a lot of change for us.

The reality is during the winter months the weekday hours between 5 pm and 9 pm are basically the dinner and after dinner hours at the highes cost per kWh. How exactly can you defer cooking times for dinner? The solution to minimizing the costs associated with cooking will be to use energy efficient cooking methods. Use a countertop roaster rather than an oven or use the oven to cook most of the components of the meal in the oven with an extra piece of meat to be used for sandwiches during the week will help maximize the energy you are using. A crockpot (slow cooker) while not my favourite cooking appliance can be set to take advantage of the lower mid-peak prices during winter days. A pressure cooker will help put tasty meals cooked during high-peak hours on your table without using a lot energy. Get into the habit of using lids on your pots and pans and any time you can eliminate boiling anything do so. It uses less energy to steam vegetables than it does to boil them and the results are nicer. Of course if you have the option to switch to cooking with natural gas entirely or partially you will definitely save all the way around since natural gas is currently considerably less than electricity in Ontario.

The TOU will affect people without HE appliances, those with children or on fixed income the most. Hydro One has a cute applet that helps you determine how much various electrical appliances will cost you to run based on the new TOU rates. This will give you an idea of what appliances could be switched to the low rate times. Now this tool is just a guide. For example the lowest time setting for the coffee maker is 1 hr but we use a purcolator or the espresso machine neither of which run more than 15 minutes. It also allows for 13 lights with no way to alter the number and a maximum of 12 hours on. Due to the design of our house we have 7 CFL on most days from about 8 am to midnight. It only gives 2 options for television, 50 - inch plasma or conventional and there is no allowance for hot boxes like cable or satellite. There are a lot of little energy users like phone adapters, alarm clocks and always on night lights that eat up electricity 24/7 that the applet doesn't account for either but it is a good start towards saving electricity.

Garden Gnome


Jason said...

It's good that Hydro One is making the effort to educate consumers and offer tools like the smart meter to help us save on electricity. I'm disappointed that these tools cannot measure 'vampire electronics' considering the growth and popularity of hand-held devices.

Garden Gnome said...

Hi Jason and thanks for visiting. Hydro One has been quite good at providing tools to help users reduce their energy consumption well before the TOU implementation was started. They have an appliance calculator tool on their site as well under the 'save energy' link that allows you to calculate your energy use a bit better and you can do a home energy profile to get an idea of how your home energy use compares to others in your area.

There is a meter that you can buy to determine how much those 'vampire electronics' or any other appliance is using. I think it is called a Green Meter or perhaps a Watt meter. You can also calculate the cost each of your appliances uses by converting from Watts to kWh then multiply by the rate adjustment, cost per kWh and time of operation. Of course this will have to be calculated for each of the new TOU rates but it will give you a better view of your energy usage. Another thing I like about the TOU is you will be able to check your usage online.