Saving Electricity in Winter: Coupons, Timers and Other Strategies

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by Robin

November 1st is our official day to talk winter electricity savings. (Have you got shivers of excitement? I didn't think so, but I'll do my best to make it interesting.)

We chose this day for this discussion because this is the day many folks with time-of-use electricity billing have moved to the winter schedule.

You can use our tips (and the time-of-use electricity rates) to your advantage - especially if you live in Ontario!

Here're some ideas for you...

If you live in Ontario...

In our province (Ontario, Canada) November 1st is the day our time-of-use electricity schedule changes. (Read more about Ontario time-of-use rates here). There are three price periods:
  • Off-peak (least expensive),
  • On-peak (most expensive) and
  • Mid-Peak (in between)

Come November 1st the On-peak period (i.e. the most expensive time) switches from midday to 7am to 11am and 5pm to 7pm on weekdays. 

Here's a diagram to explain:

Red = Bad

We've shared tips for using electricity differently during the Winter schedule before. You can read our other winter tips here.

If you don’t live in Ontario...

We have readers around the world (which blows.our.minds.). These Ontario-specific tips aren't exactly helpful for y'all. Sorry 'bout that. We'd love to be able to give you the specific electricity details for all the places our readers live. But that just isn't possible.

You can still find information and coupons to help you save money on electricity. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you find with a simple search.

Just take a few minutes and Google the name of your province, state or electricity company, plus the words:
  • “electricity coupons” or
  • “electricity savings”.

I’m kicking myself that I didn’t think to do this simple search when we replaced the light fixture in our bathroom, we could have used a coupon! (Bad! Bad, Frugal Blogger!).

New Times for Old Timers

Like many people, we have a damp basement, especially during this recent wet weather. We have a dehumidifier to make the air less wet.

The trouble is, when you have a constantly damp basement, that dehumidifier constantly runs. That dehumidifier doesn't care if it runs during On-Peak electricity rates, but we do!

We’ve added a timer to our dehumidifier so that it only runs when the electricity is the least expensive. For us, that’s 7 am to 7pm, year round. It works great! We’ve noticed no change in the humidity level in the basement whatsoever. And the investment in the timer was minimal. (I'm not sure we actually paid for it at all. No, we didn't start shoplifting. We're pretty sure it came with the house.)

We've had this particular timer for years. Normally, we use it for our Christmas lights.

We have our outdoor Christmas lights on a timer so that they come on and off on their own. Partially, we do this for electricity savings. Mostly, we do this because we are lazy and forgetful and would leave them on all night sometimes.

I'd like to set the lights for the Off-Peak/cheapest time period this year, but I don't know. It gets dark so early in the winter and sometimes the sparkly pretty lights are the only cheerful thing in the dreary, dark, winter nights. (S.A.D. much?).

Clear the Air Without Clearing Out Your Wallet

We added a hard-wired timer to our main floor bathroom fan. This has been a simple and effective change. In the past, the fan could run for hours, especially if someone turned it on and then left for the day (no fingers pointing here...). I'd get pretty irked to find we were paying to run a fan all day and pumping our warm air outside for hours.

Now the fan runs for 10 minutes and then shuts itself off. Easy-peasy.

My new fascination with timers has led me to trying to figure out other appliances to plug into one. Some appliances work better than others:
  • Freezer? Nope.
  • Fridge? Nay.
  • Alarm Clock? Not if you want to keep your job.
  • Battery chargers? OK!
  • Water softener? Maybe. (Ours has an internal timer that we have set for the middle of the night.)
  • Do you have another idea?

Do you have time-of-use electricity billing where you live? Got any tips on how to use it to your advantage?

Other posts about Saving Electricity:

Is Switching to a Gas Water Heater Worth it?
Saving Money: Electricity in Winter


  1. I have a tip for those with newer washers and just moderately new dishwashers. Following the off-peak schedule (same as yours as I'm in Ontario, too), I wash and dry laundry or run the dishwasher after 7pm. But forgetting, as you mention, can really throw off your schedule if you have a mountain of dirty clothes and you're out of clean undies.
    I use the timers on both washer and dishwasher to keep me on top of the hydro $avings. My front loader is less than a year old and it's timer can be delayed in hours, up to 19 hours. So, if I throw a load in at 4:00 pm, I can set the timer for 3 hours, and it starts right on time.
    My dishwasher is pretty old but still has a setting for a 2 ,4 and 6 hour delay.
    If I need my machines to run right at 7pm so that I can reload and get as many loads done during off peak before I go to bed then I will set my egg timer to go off on the hour- for example, if it's 5:37 and I don't want my machine to start as late as 7:37, I set my egg timer for 23 minutes and then set my timer for 1 hour so that my load will begin right at 7pm. That way I can piggy back my laundry and get in a couple loads before I go to bed.
    My washer also plays a tune when it's finished, so I'm reminded to toss it in the dryer.

    1. Such great ideas, cred! We do lots of those same things - like using the dishwasher timer. It's easy to do, but easy to forget to do. :)

  2. another tip for saving $$ (although this is for summer)- using the crock pot to back AB in 5. Instructions on their website. Works great and although the crock pot is on during the day, it doesn't heat up the kitchen- thus reducing the AC costs of extra cooling from having the oven on.
    Another way to keep the kitchen cool in summer, cook the pizza right on the bbq grill (again instructions on AB in 5).

    Sorry this is for the wrong season but worth a mention.

    1. I hadn't thought about the crock pot making less heat in the summer - that's a great idea! We haven't used the crock pot to make the 5 minute bread before - Ed will love that idea. Thanks for sharing!

  3. ..."using the crock pot to back AB in 5."

    that should have read using the crock pot to "bake" AB in 5 bread.

    1. I do that all the time! I wish there was a way to go back and fix comments. Oh well! :)

  4. Lisa from IroquoisNovember 2, 2012 at 6:52 PM

    We have a wood stove that my mother in law likes to sit next to all day long (she has Alzheimers and complains about being cold all the time) and in the evening I run a small load of clothes and hang it on a rack to dry overnight. Small load because I count out enough pieces of clothing to fill the rack. We hardly ever use the clothes dryer - summer or winter.

    1. It sounds like you have a very thoughtful system, Lisa. We don't use the dryer in the summer, but we haven't got a good way to avoid it in the winter. Your wood stove sounds cozy.

  5. I've never heard of rates that vary by times of day. Smart idea. Wish I had some great tips, but I really don't. Appreciate you sharing yours.

    1. I actually like the time-of-use rates - it gives you a chance to be smart about your usage. We did lots of these things before, just to be green, but focused more when these rates came in, as was true for lots of people. Thanks for your comment, Rita!

  6. We line dry our laundry except in winter. We do put the towels in the dryer for 10mins afterwards, otherwise they are like cardboard! In the winter we use the dryer for sheets and towels and hang everything else indoors. Baby clothes and other small items on a rack and everything else on coat hangers which are hung in door frames overnight and usually dry in the morning. Its a little more time consuming than throwing them in the dryer, but I'd rather spend the time than the money on the bills! Its also better for the environment, puts moisture into the dry winter air and prolongs the life of your clothes :O)

    1. You've got a great system, Cathy! You're right about all the benefits of line drying. I'm a hardcore line user in the summer, but I have a half measures approach in the winter: I hang up delicates and clothes that take a long time to dry (like jeans), then I toss the rest in the dryer for half the time of a large load. Not perfect, but good enough for now.

  7. Wow those are just amazing and very useful information and tips (both by the article and the comments by cred). There are just so many practical ways to save money that we often overlook. Thank you for sharing yours and help us realize that most solutions are just under our noses.

    1. The simplest ideas are often the best, aren't they? And easiest to implement. Thanks for your comment!


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