air conditioner systemThose of us in California (especially in the central valley) know that summer is here and it’s louder, prouder, and hotter than ever! With temperatures in the hundreds and above, PG&E has been issuing more and more SmartDays. Many of our customers have been asking us, “Should I run my AC on a SmartDay?” This is a totally valid question when weighing the pros and cons of staying cool while at the same time keeping your summer cooling costs low.

What are PG&E SmartDays?

So what exactly are SmartDays? SmartDays are part of PG&E’s SmartRate plan, whichis an opt-in plan for residential customers. The benefit of SmartRate is that, if you are smart about your energy usage, you get reduced electricity rates from June 1 – September 30th. This does come with a few exceptions, though. PG&E can also issue SmartDays on any day of the year (including weekends and holidays, although unlikely), with a maximum of 15 days per year.

SmartDays are usually issued when the temperature outside is unusually high – usually 95 degrees or more – which is also when PG&E charges HIGHER rates during peak hours. Peak hours are from 2pm to 7pm, and increases normal rates by $.60/kWh. This means that  running fans, using the dryer, heating up the oven, and yes, even running your A/C, will cost you MORE money during SmartDay peak hours.

So, knowing the above, it makes sense that our customers are having a bit of bill anxiety on the matter and are asking us if it’s OK to run their A/C on a SmartDay. So what is the answer?

Tips for Using Your AC on a SmartDay

In short, it’s foolish to say that you shouldn’t run your air conditioner during a SmartDay. This is especially true if you live with children or elderly. That being said, there are some best practices you can follow that will allow you to run your A/C less frequently (or at least during non-peak hours) in order to keep your electricity bill to a minimum.

  • Run your AC in the morning and evening

SmartDay peak hours are from 2pm-7pm, which means that you’ll have all morning and evening to run your air conditioner at normal electricity rates. What’s the smart thing to do? Run the A/C during off peak hours and make sure to get the home down to a desired level of coolness. This way, you can leave the A/C off during peak hours.

  • Use lots and lots of fans

Once your home is cooled to a comfortable temperature, you can shut off your A/C and use fans to circulate the cool air throughout your home. Of course, this only makes sense if you’re at home (it’s kind of useless to circulate air if no one is there to enjoy it). Use fans placed in strategic positions to keep your house cool without the A/C on.

  • Invest in thermal-backed curtains

Thermal-backed curtains aren’t just for winter. Not only do they help to keep warm air in during winter, but they also keep the cool air in and hot air out during the summer. Hang your curtains in places where they’ll be most efficient at blocking light. Sure, you might feel like a vampire sitting in your darkened living room at 3pm on a summer day, but you’ll be thankful when your house stays at a nice 75 or 80 degrees instead of creeping towards the 100’s. Make sure to close your blinds, too, for added protection from the heat.

  • Close off empty rooms

Not using the guest room or that extra office space upstairs? Close their doors and don’t waste time trying to cool those rooms off. It’s much easier (and faster) to cool a smaller space than it is trying to cool your entire home. This is especially true if you live in a two or three story house. If you want to get a little creative, you can try hanging thermal backed curtains in front of the door, making a pseudo-barrier that keeps the warm air in that room separate from the rest of the house, making it easier to keep your home cool.

  • Bump up the thermostat and use a timer

If you’re used to setting the thermostat to 68 degrees, we recommend seriously reconsidering. Next time, try setting the temperature to 75 degrees, then go from there as you get adjusted. A difference between just a few degrees can make a huge difference on your electricity bill, and you’ll be surprised how quickly your body adjusts to slightly warmer temperatures.

So to answer the original question, “Should you run your AC on a SmartDay?” Yes – but run it wisely and  be conscious of PG&E’s peak hours. This will make enrolling in SmartRate worthwhile, since all the money you save during the colder seasons won’t be wasted running your A/C in the summer. For more tips and tricks on SmartDays, visit PG&E’s website.