In Arizona, there aren’t many people who will give APS a positive review. In previous posts, I’ve alluded to their questionable tactics with squashing a renewable energy bill and accepting dark money. But, I’ve learned one important thing in my research. It matters HOW we use electricity in Arizona. Love or hate APS, there are ways to save on your electric bill AND better utilize our power generation.

A Quick Overview on Electricity

Believe it or not, we can produce TOO MUCH solar power. With the increase of solar power generation, we now create more power during the day than people are using. This results in the “duck curve” of generation vs. demand that plagues people in the solar and power industry.

Think of when you use power the most. Usually, it’s after you get home from work or school. That’s typically when the sun is setting. It’s also when APS rates increase on several of their plans. You could very well be using MOST of your electricity during the most expensive times of the day.

Less than a year ago, I attended a panel on Prop 127. A representative from APS was one of the panelists and only grazed the subject that we could be shifting HOW we use electricity. It was a barely-noticeable statement but I wondered more about it. I had been working from home, sweating it out during the day to keep my A/C from switching on constantly during the summer. But now I’m hearing that solar power plants are actually being turned OFF to reduce load on the electric grid. The power was there during the day, but we just weren’t using enough of it. But how can this help you save on your electric bill?

My Electric Bill Experiment

As summer closed in on sweaty Phoenix, AZ (i.e. April and May), I decided to try something new. Since power is the cheapest during off-peak hours (8pm-3pm), it seemed to make sense to keep my house cooler during the day so it wasn’t working so hard to cool it off during peak hours (3pm-8pm). I know…this feels completely counter-intuitive. I think: it’s 110 degrees outside. Why would I keep my house cooler so my A/C runs more? But, I put my faith in the theory that there is excess power to be had. Think less “save electricity” and more “use electricity generation smarter.”

My “Save on Your Electric Bill” Technique

  1. Keep A/C at 79 or 80 overnight
  2. When the sun comes up at the “coolest” point of the day (sometimes 90 degrees), bump A/C down to 77
  3. After it cools, turn back up to 80
  4. At 2pm or 1 hour before peak hours begin, turn A/C down again to 77. Depending on your house, it may run for a full hour.
  5. At 3pm, turn A/C up to 82
  6. After 8pm or before bedtime, turn A/C down to 79 or 80
Save on your electric bill by turning down the a/c

Other power-saving and time-shifts I implemented:

  1. Use ceiling fans copiously
  2. Refrain from using the oven (try BBQ!)
  3. Eat more meals that don’t require a lot of cooking
  4. Set time delay on dishwasher so it doesn’t begin until after 8pm
  5. Set car charging to automatically start at 8:05pm
  6. Refrain from charging phones and computers 3pm-8pm
  7. Don’t use major appliances during peak hours including: washing machine, room A/C units, pool filter, clothes dryer (Did I mention it’s 110 outside? Just hang dry your clothes for 10 minutes)
  8. The usual: turn off lights you aren’t using, don’t hold open the fridge door and all those other things your mom told you

But Did I Actually Save Money?

The short answer is YES. Below is a 2018-2019 comparison of my On-Peak and Off-Peak use for the hottest summer months. But you can see in the image below this chart that I actually used MORE overall electricity than the previous year.

bill dateon-peak chargeoff-peak charge
8/9/2018$67.68 $124.25
Savings$43.00 $5.12
bill dateon-peak chargeoff-peak charge
7/11/2018$66.52 $128.52
7/10/2019$19.01 $106.22
Savings$47.51 $22.30
bill dateon-peak chargeoff-peak charge
6/8/2018$40.61 $78.20
6/7/2019$9.51 $50.03
Savings$31.10 $28.17
My APS usage breakdown, comparing 2018 to 2019. Lighter shaded areas represent off-peak use

I’m sitting here in my office on a relatively cool day with a high outside of 101 degrees. I practiced my cool-down technique and my A/C has not turned on now for two hours, and counting. That’s two hours I’m not paying into peak charges and not feeding in to the high demand typically experienced at this hour. The savings shown above to save on your electric bill are a testament to this system working.

Overall, with new mysterious APS “demand charges” included, I saved over $120 in the past three months. We’ve even had one of the most brutal Julys, reaching record temps and four record high lows.

While a lot still needs to be done to manage the duck curve and make solar power generation work better for us, it can’t hurt to adapt our lifestyles, too. Energy storage is our biggest challenge in non-fossil fuel, non-nuclear, renewable energies that help us live in a healthier world. Especially in extreme environments like the desert southwest, a slight shift in our habits can help us thrive rather than just survive in the summer heat. We eat, sleep and play around the movement of the sun. We can also adapt our use of its power to work for us.