Peak Performance

Amy Musser

A lot of people in WNC oppose building new coal and nuclear plants, but I’ve noticed that most of us do enjoy flipping the switch and having power.  Luckily, there are some relatively painless things we can do to reduce our peak power usage and the need for new power plants.

Peak power is the electricity that you use at the same time when everyone else is using electricity.  Electric utilities have a variety of generating equipment to choose from, and as we use more power they just turn more on.

Peak power is dirty, expensive power.  You might imagine that if you were running a power plant and you had a choice of an old inefficient equipment and new efficient equipment, you’d use the new stuff first.  You’d save the worst for last – for those peak times when the most power is needed.

What this means is that if you don’t want power companies to add new capacity and if you don’t want them to use their worst, most polluting, least efficient and most expensive equipment, you can help out by using less power at times when everyone else is using it.

In the summer peak usage occurs in late afternoon on hot, sunny days – from about 3 to 8 PM, and especially on weekdays.  The winter peak happens in the morning on cold days – from about 4 AM to 8 AM.  It’s relatively easy to avoid using your clothes dryer (a huge electric power draw) at these times.  My house is on a time of use rate structure, so I keep a sign on my dryer reminding me when not to use my dryer.  Using your electric oven may be more difficult, but who wants to bake something on a hot afternoon anyway?

You can also allow Progress Energy to come to your house and install a device on your hot water heater, air conditioner or heat pump  that will cycle these appliances off when their demand is peaking.  You’ll be paid $50 per device for doing this.  I’ve had these devices at various homes where I’ve lived in the past and can tell you that you will never notice the difference.  Your house won’t be hotter and you will have hot water.  They just cycle them off for a short time.  Learn more about how to get your $50 here.

The other thing you can do is get rid of things that waste power all the time.  A second refrigerator (especially if it’s old) is an energy hog that you may not really NEED.  Get rid of it, and get another $50 from Progress Energy through their appliance recycling program.  It’s also helpful to use power strips to get rid of phantom loads from TVs, AV equipment, stereos, computers, and similar devices.  And of course, unplug your cell phone charger unless it’s charging your phone.

As an engineer, I love problems that I can solve.  Peak power is a pretty easy one.  So let’s get to it,Asheville!

Copyright 2012 Amy Musser