How Knowing Your Area’s TOU Can Save You Thousands

What is “TOU”, you ask?  For anyone who doesn’t know, TOU = Time of Use, as in the rates that you are charged for power depending on the time of day it is.

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Time of Use rates are basically how the electric company calculates your bill, and figures out how much you owe based on your usage. Here’s the kicker: TOU rates vary throughout the day, and at peak hours (usually in the daytime, but they may vary based on your area) your usage rates are higher, even double what they normally are during off-peak times.

With summer coming up, now is the time to start monitoring and regulating your TOU, because rates (and demands for power) are at their highest during the summer. This can wreak havoc on your electricity bill, as well as your company overhead if you’re a small business, or work out of your home (like I do). It’s important to contact your local power company and find out what their peak hours are, then adjust your work habits accordingly.

Trust me – you’ll be glad you did. By simply learning when your power company is charging you the most for power, you can cut your power usage and electricity bill down by almost 40%. How?  By working more during off-peak hours, you to get the maximum savings on energy during a time of high energy consumption, and even higher bills.

For my area in Southern California, the peak hours of power usage are noon to 6 p.m. from June through October, so I adjusted my business hours to optimize my energy usage. I do a lot of my writing, e-mail checking, and mundane office work at night or in the wee hours of the morning. I know my computer sucks a lot of power, so I try to keep it off during the day (instead, I write on my notepad of recycled paper), then I turn it on at night.

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I’m still available to my clients during my business hours in the daytime, but since I can set my own work hours, I run the majority of my power at night.

The same applies for non-work energy usage. For example, I do not run my pool pump during the day. Instead I set the timer to run from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m which are off peak hours.

I’ve personally witnessed the meter spin like crazy the minute the pump turned on, so now it only runs in the dead of night. I’ve probably saved at least $60 on my monthly bill by doing that, and since my company was below budget for the month, I was able to have a spa-day. Yay.

There are so many other cost-effective tips that you can implement for your small business, whether you run it out of a building or a home. Here are a few you can use right now:


  • Light regulation (part one) – Want to cut down on how much you have to run the A/C? Add inside or outside blinds (or cover your windows with window film) to block heat in the summer. If you want to regulate how much light is coming into your house, you can cover your windows with aluminum foil to block some of the light, keep your house darker, and lower the temperature in there. I use the term “regulate” because you still want to use the sun for natural light instead of electricity during the daytime. However, when it gets a little too hot, you can always cover up a few windows and bring down the temperature.
  • Low charge, no charge – Charge your batteries and any battery-operated equipment during off-peak hours. Once you know what your peak times are, charge those phones, laptops, and e-readers before and after those times.
  • Bulbs matter – CFL/LED lamps and bulbs use less energy. Make sure to replace any halogen or incandescent bulbs with LEDs or CFLs.
  • No people? No power! – Have occupancy sensors installed in general usage areas of your home or business. That way, the lights automatically turn off whenever the area is unoccupied.  If employees aren’t there, then there’s no point in wasting energy and paying for electricity you’re not even using.
  • “Warm Up” Your Cooling Process – Don’t make your A/C do all of the work. “Pre-cool” certain work areas through the use of ceiling fans, desk fans, and good ventilation throughout the day. When it’s time to turn on the air conditioner, your work space is already considerably cooler.
  • Light regulation (part two) – Turn off any unneeded lights and electronics. During the summer, there are more daylight hours to use, so go for it! Also, make sure any power that is used for things like ice machines, fountains, or other electronics are shut off – and unplugged – if they are in unused facilities.

And of course, always make sure to perform routine checks and maintenance on your A/C systems, including filters, belts, coils, and bearings. An improperly running air conditioning unit can cost you thousands of dollars in energy charges per year.

Saving money and energy starts by making small changes to your everyday routine. The result is a big change in your energy bill, and how much money your business saves in overhead. Always make sure to contact your local energy company to get a more in-depth analysis on how your business currently uses energy, and the areas where you can save.