A week ago on Friday, July 20th, the temperature in Oklahoma City was 106 degrees Fahrenheit.
While summer temperatures like this inevitably lead to higher utility bills, thanks to our “smart thermostat” (which we received as participants in OG&E’s “Smart Hours” program this past spring) our family is able to manage our electricity consumption better during “peak hours” when utility prices are highest. As a result, we’re saving money.
After we signed up for the program a few months ago, we scheduled a day when an OG&E employee could come install our “smart thermostat” and “Smart Meter” outside. I learned about Smart Meters about a year ago when we moved from Edmond into Oklahoma City. The meters connect to each other through a mesh wireless network, and pass along current electricity consumption data to the OG&E central office. The Smart Thermostat lets us precisely define how and when we want our home temperature settings to vary depending on the price of electricity. “Peak hours” are generally 2 pm to 7 pm weekdays, so it makes sense to set thermostat settings higher at those times and also be sure NOT to use electricity-demanding appliances like clothes dryers and dishwashers. Since we’ve been in the program, we’ve also become more aware of our electricity use with lights and other things and have asked our children to help us keep unneeded devices turned off.
We chose to connect my wife’s cell phone number to our OG&E account, so she receives text message alerts when electricity prices change. As you can see in the iPhone SMS screenshot below, typically (as was the case on July 18th) the ‘standard’ peak rate for OG&E electricity is around 11.3 cents per kilowatt hour.
On days like July 20th, however, when summer temperatures reach their highest levels, electricity prices can skyrocket temporarily. The iPhone screenshot below shows the OG&E rate warning my wife received earlier that day, notifying us a “critical price event” would be taking place and rates would climb between 3 and 6 pm to 46 cents/kWh.
I think the OG&E Smart Hours program is fantastic. While it’s a bummer our summer temperatures in Oklahoma sometimes get so high, it’s great our electricity company is using cutting edge technologies to help us monitor “the pulse” of our own electricity consumption in our home and make adjustments so we can save money by turning off appliances (as well as turning up the thermostat) during “peak hours.” This is especially helpful during “critical price events” like we had on July 20th.
If you are an OG&E customer, I strongly encourage you to sign up for the Smart Hours program. Participation is free, it doesn’t cost you anything else as a customer. If you can receive cell phone text messages, their SMS alert program is awesome. I know our summer electricity bills have been less as a result of our participation in the program, and the awareness of all five members of our family about how we can help save money by turning off unneeded appliances has been significantly heightened.
If you’re not an OG&E customer, I encourage you to find out if your utility company offers “smart meters” and “smart thermostats” to monitor and manage your home electricity consumption. Hopefully we’ll see more utility companies around the nation and world follow the lead of OG&E by implementing these kinds of cutting edge, electricity consumption monitoring programs. You can follow OG&E on Twitter for updates: @OGandE.
* Full disclosure: I am participating in a special OG&E Smart Hours Program social media campaign, and am voluntarily sharing this post about our family’s experiences with Smart Hours. I received a $25 gift card toward my OG&E bill as an incentive to participate, and may receive reductions in our family’s summer electricity bills based on my participation in this program. I’ve added this information to my comprehensive blog disclosure policy.
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