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Home Page > Consumer Assistance > Consumer Tips > Tip of the Week

Consumer Tip Sunday, July 24, 2005


The time of day when electricity is used can make a big difference to Florida, and ultimately, to you. By practicing "peak shifting" -- shifting the time of day when you use such household appliances as your clothes washer, vacuum cleaner or dishwasher -- you can help reduce electric demand during peak times of the day, thereby reducing the overall cost of power in Florida.

The Demand for Electricity

A consumer's demand for electricity is determined by the electricity-consuming appliances in his or her home or business, and the extent to which those appliances are used. The "load" that a utility must supply, meanwhile, is the total of all customers' electric demand. Because customers use electricity in different amounts at different times of the day, the load changes over the day, the week and the year, as well as with changes in the weather.

How Does a Utility Meet the Demand for Electricity?

A utility may generate electricity, purchase power from other utilities, or utilize a combination of both. Unlike most products, electricity cannot be stored after it is produced; it must be generated at the time of demand. Therefore, there are "peak" periods of the day during which utilities must produce additional electricity to meet the demands of their customers.

Some utilities offer "load management" programs to help reduce demand during such peak periods. Under such programs, a participating customer agrees to allow the utility to control the flow of electricity to certain larger electric appliances, such as heat pumps or water heaters, that are not needed by the customer at peak times of the day.

Types of Generating Units That Utilities Use

To meet the changing load over the course of a day, utilities use several different types of generators:

  • "Baseload" generators, which primarily use coal and nuclear fuel, are large units used to meet the load that is always on a utility's system. Baseload units tend to have lower fuel costs, but cost more to construct.
  • "Intermediate" units, which primarily use oil and natural gas, are brought on line during the day as the load rises. Intermediate units tend to have higher fuel costs than baseload units, but cost less to construct.
  • "Peaking" units, which primarily use oil and natural gas, are brought on line to meet the demand for electricity during peak periods of the day, and run for shorter periods of time. Peaking units have relatively high fuel costs because they are much less efficient in the use of fuel than baseload or intermediate units; however, they cost the least to construct. The extent to which peaking units are used is based on the size and duration of the peak periods.

How Does All This Affect the Cost of Electricity?

Your electric rates include the cost for the generating units (if any) that a utility owns and operates, the cost of fuel for those units, the cost of power purchased from other utilities, and the cost of any conservation or load management programs offered by the utility.

Reducing the total amount of electricity you use reduces your bill. In addition, reducing electric use at peak times of the day, or peak shifting, saves expensive fuel that would otherwise be used in a peaking unit. That translates into savings for all customers of that utility.

Some states have experienced electricity "price spikes" during peak periods. This has been caused by such factors as extreme weather, low fuel reserves, and difficulties in transmitting power purchased from other utilities. In Florida, the Public Service Commission and the state's major utilities have made a commitment to increase electricity reserves so that the possibility of price spikes and power interruptions due to generator outages are significantly reduced.

How Do I Practice Peak Shifting?

  • Use electric appliances such washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers and vacuum cleaners during non-peak hours, to the extent possible.

    Generally, the BEST times to use electric appliances in Florida are as follows:

Winter Summer
10 a.m.-6 p.m. Midnight-noon
9 p.m. -6 a.m. 8 p.m.-midnight

    Generally, the WORST times to use electric appliances in Florida are as follows:

Winter Summer
6 a.m.-10 a.m. Noon-8 p.m.
6 p.m.-9 p.m.

What Else Can I Do To Reduce My Electric Bill?

  • Raise your thermostat to 78 degrees in the summer and lower it to 68 degrees in the winter. These temperatures should still keep you comfortable without using excessive amounts of electricity.
  • Use ceiling fans only when a room is occupied. This will allow you to raise the thermostat in the summer and still remain comfortable.
  • Turn off unnecessary lights, televisions and other appliances that are not being used.
  • Check your water heater's temperature setting and see if it is possible to lower it to a temperature that still meets your needs.
  • Call your local electric utility for tips on using energy wisely, and to find out about any load management or conservation programs that may be offered.
  • Call the Florida Public Service Commission at 1-800-342-3552 for more information on energy conservation, or visit our Web site at