How To Save Electricity During Peak Demand Conditions

When the weather gets really hot, it’s natural to want to turn down your thermostat and seek relief from the elements, but how and when you cool your home, as well as do other household chores can make a big difference for your wallet, the planet, and how your local electric grid weather’s the challenge.

These strategies can help make a difference:

Doing your part can help avoid the need for involuntary curtailment and/or brown outs, which can hit vulnerable populations hardest.
Learn about populations at risk to Extreme Heat at

Know and avoid your peak

Peak demand is when electricity use is high and electricity supply is constrained, which can occur when weather gets hotter than normal and cooling demand is at its highest or when there is a mismatch between time of energy use and available supply.  

  • Reducing energy use during peak times can have a beneficial effect on electric rates over time because it can avoid the need for your utility to ramp up an additional power plant or to buy more expensive power from the market. And, if you are on time-based rates, it can more immediately impact on your pocketbook.
  • During peak extremes, you may be asked by your utility to conserve energy. Doing your part can help prevent the need for involuntary curtailment and/or brown outs, which can hit vulnerable populations including children and the elderly hardest.


Pre-cool your home during off-peak hours before temperatures rise. Your local utility is the best source of information on when peak conditions exist, but as a rule-of-thumb, after 9 pm and before 9 am is off-peak in most situations.

During summer peak, if you have an ENERGY STAR certified smart thermostat with a smart phone interface, use it to bump up your temperature settings while away from home. Your local utility may offer the ability to sign up for text or email notifications when your energy usage is higher than normal, or when energy conservation is particularly important for maintaining electric reliability.

Don’t add to the heat

During hot spells, clothes drying, cooking, bathing, and dishwasher use can make your air conditioner run longer as it works to remove the excess heat and humidity. 

  • Shift chores to off peak hours (or delay them for longer if possible)
  • Wash clothes in cold water and hang them to dry; if needed, give them a one-minute spin in the dryer (after peak) to soften and reduce wrinkles
  • Take a shower rather than a bath to save 45 to 50 gallons of water; challenge yourself to keep it under five minutes[1]
  • Use vent fans in bathrooms and kitchens to remove humidity at the source
  • Don’t assume handwashing dishes is better---a new ENERGY STAR certified dishwasher uses less than a quarter of the energy of washing dishes by hand, saving more than 8,000 gallons of water each year!

Take stock and plan future home energy improvements

Unfortunately, climate change is likely to cause more extreme weather events in the future. So, it’s a good idea to take stock of the age and condition of insulation, windows, and major appliances, so you can plan your upgrades and avoid emergency replacements.

  • A home that is well sealed and insulated can maintain a desired temperature for longer. If needed, adding attic insulation may be one of the most cost-effective investments you can make. To find out if you need more insulation, learn how to “Rule your Attic!”
  • If your home is poorly insulated and you meet federal income limits, you may be eligible for free or low-cost assistance in weatherizing your home. Contact your State Energy Office or local Community Action Agency to learn more.
  • Consider an ENERGY STAR Home Upgrade, a set of six high-impact, energy efficiency improvements for your home designed to work together to deliver significant energy and cost savings. These upgrades can be done individually or in tandem to help you prepare for the clean energy future, while enjoying energy savings and a more comfortable home today.

Find more “Low- to No-Cost Tips for Saving Energy at Home” here.

Author: Maureen McNamara, ENERGY STAR Products