OG&E Smart Hours / Time of Use Pricing - Part 2

How do you like it?
I like it fine. To be honest, most days it does not have much of an effect on my life. I like that I get to be more involved and knowledgeable in the utility process and I feel as though I’m helping the community and myself while I’m at it. But generally, it seems normal by now, and it is not a hassle so I don’t think much about it.

Is it saving you money?
OG&E guarantees that for the first year of sign-up to the program, they would compare my flat rate cost to my Smart Hours/time of use cost for that billing period and would never charge more than what I would have paid on the flat rate. So right there, I’m promised that I will either save money or pay the same as I would have paid otherwise. For each billing cycle during the time of use season, they show the difference in what I would have paid; my bills show that I saved something in the neighborhood of $23 the first month and $29 the second month from using the new pricing system. This is a pretty decent percentage of my bill.

In addition, I feel like being on the program makes me more aware of what I’m doing, so that I likely also have some savings from overall reductions in use. These are harder to quantify since we’ve been working on the energy efficiency in our home through home improvement projects as well. Some of this reduced load is from home improvement, some of it is from increased awareness due to Smart Hours, and some of it is from my personal race to try to get my weekly myogepower summary to say “Efficient” or less. (I don’t know why I like to do this, but I feel like I win a cyber-award on weeks that I meet that goal. I have been known to hold my arms in the air and exclaim, to my husband’s confusion, “Hooray! We beat the neighbors!” Yep. I can’t explain this weird urge. Or the frown I make the next week when my neighbor theoretically beats me and I am no longer “Efficient.”)

How do you know how much you’re paying every day – does the thermostat work?
I think I would have to bury my head in a sandbox to miss all of the price signals OG&E sends. The day before, I get an email, an automated phone call, AND a message on my thermostat about the next day’s rate. I probably could opt out of some of these alerts if I tried, but to be honest, I kind of like to be banged over the head like this in case I’m just not paying attention that day. On top of all of these alerts, our Smart Hours thermostat has lights on it that indicate price changes and stay on during the duration of the ‘price event.’ And I thought these would be little LEDs or something, but let me tell you, my friends: these lights are BRIGHT. I have no choice but to notice them!

This brings me to the second part of the question; yes, the thermostat works very well. I like the lights on it. I like the price messages on it. I like the instantaneous price display on it. I was extra impressed that the representative who installed my thermostat stood there and asked about our schedules and programmed it for us… but my husband has no problem re-programming it when he wants to, so it must be pretty easy to understand. (We have had programmable thermostats in the past that were such a pain, we quit using them!) I also like how the thermostat programming is integrated into the price signals. It really does do most of the work for us in a simple and understandable way, and since we’ve had it set up the way we like it, we haven’t had to mess with it again.

So, you just don’t use electricity?
Um, no. I might be a crazy hippie compared to some people, but I’m not that much of a crazy hippie. In fact, my husband might divorce me if he couldn’t play the Xbox anymore. At the very least, I’d never see him again if he had to go over to friends’ houses to play Halo and Fallout.

But I digress. Let’s think about this question for just a second. The peak periods are only Monday-Friday, 2-7. These are the only times the rate is ever increased. Some of these weekdays we’re at work, and it is a simple matter to just wait a small period of time after we get home before we start up the oven or the TV, resting secure in our knowledge that the thermostat takes care of things while we’re gone. On weekdays when we are at home, it’s still pretty easy to run the appliances we need to run prior to 2pm, and then either switch them off and do something else for a few hours (time to fold all the laundry I just washed!) or go do errands.

You also have to remember that some days, if we are lucky, it is the low rate all day, so we can do whatever we want without paying extra. And – I have to remind my hubby of this all the time – AND – we have the option of using electricity between 2-7pm. No one is stopping us! We just have to keep in mind that we may be paying more at those times, and make the decision as to how much we *really* have a burning desire to play Halo or run the dishwasher right away. Do we really need to do that now, or would we be perfectly happy waiting until after 7? Usually we have no problem at all shifting our activities around peak times. 

Some people handle higher temperatures better than others; this is a fact. I like it warm and I usually don’t mind the house being warm, within a reasonable range. My husband on the other hand likes cooler temperatures and is less tolerant. We want us both to be comfortable, so when he’s at home during high or critical rate days, we try this technique:

If it is a high rate day and we will be home between 2-7, we kick our a/c up in the morning. We pre-chill the house so that it is a little cooler than we would normally have it under ideal conditions (I will usually do 2-4 degrees lower depending on the forecast), then we bump the a/c back down to conserve energy during peak.  At 2pm we close the drapes and try not to open the doors, just like gramma taught us. You may be surprised how long the comfort lasts, especially in a well-weatherized home (at my house – which is not uber weatherized - it usually stays in the comfort range until at least 5:00). If we start to get too warm, we turn on some fans to make up the difference, because these use less energy than an air conditioner. If and when we get too warm again we will turn the a/c back up… but even going through this whole process, chances are that we still will have used less energy than if we’d just left the a/c on. Many days the pre-chill is good enough to last until peak is over.

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