What Time Is Off-Peak Electricity?

Are you wondering what time is off-peak electricity so you can save on your power bills? Find out all you need to know about cheap electricity tariffs here with Savvy.

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, updated on July 27th, 2023       

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Off-peak electricity refers to a specific time period during the day when electricity demand is relatively low. During this time, electricity rates are typically lower compared to high-demand periods. Understanding the different electricity tariff periods can help you make informed decisions about when to use electricity-intensive appliances, or schedule activities that require high energy consumption. Find out all about off-peak electricity rates here with Savvy.

  What is off-peak electricity, and when is it available in Australia?

Off-peak electricity refers to a specific period of time during the day or night when electricity usage is low, and the demand on the national power grid is reduced. During this off-peak period, electricity prices are typically lower compared to peak hours. The time of day when there is average usage on the grid is known as the shoulder period, with periods of high demand known as peak period.

The exact timing of off-peak hours will vary depending on your location, your electricity provider and which power network your house or business is connected to. In general terms:

Peak hours are usually in the late afternoon and evening when most households are running high-demand appliances such as ovens, dishwashers and air conditioning units. Common peak times are 3pm or 4pm to 9pm or 10pm.
Off-peak electricity is usually available at night and into the early hours of the day. Commonly off-peak times start around 10pm and last until 6am or 7am.
Shoulder rates usually apply during the morning, middle of the day and at weekends. Shoulder periods are frequently from 6am or 7am until 3pm or 4pm, and all weekends.

Taking advantage of off-peak electricity can help you save on your overall energy plans, especially if you can shift the usage of high-consumption appliances or devices to these lower-cost periods.

Do I have to have a special electricity meter to use off-peak electricity?

You don’t need to have a special electricity meter to take advantage of cheap off-peak electricity, but you do need to have one that can record what time of day you are using the power. This means you’ll need either a digital or smart electricity meter.

Before digital meters were introduced into the electricity network in Australia, there were some households who had two analog electricity meters, one for recording peak hour usage, and the other for off-peak usage. These analog meters worked by recording electricity usage as a running total, a bit like a car odometer. A timer would switch the main electrical current from running through the peak meter, to the off-peak meter, depending on time of day. The off-peak meter would only register electricity usage during off-peak hours.

To arrive at accurate total electricity usage, both meters had to be read, and an electricity bill would detail what proportion of total power use was peak and off-peak. However, this system of having two electricity meters was not widespread throughout Australia.

Once digital electricity meters were introduced, it became easier to record the time of day when power was used. All new electricity meters in Australia installed after 1 December 2017 had to be digital meters. This is when time-of-use tariffs became commonly offered by retailers.

Smart meters take electrical metering to the next level, as they are able to automatically transmit power usage to the retailer either every five minutes, or every 30 minutes. The introduction of smart meters into Australia has made time-of-use tariffs more popular as they allow more accurate usage billing.

Are off-peak electricity times the same across all regions in Australia?

No, off-peak electricity times are not the same across all states and territories in Australia. They can also vary according to the time of year, with some retailers also offering seasonal time-of-use tariffs.

The specific timing of off-peak hours will vary depending on which state you are in, and your electricity distributor or retailer. Different electricity networks have different demand patterns and electricity supply capacities, leading to variations in off-peak schedules. Some retailers in some states offer three usage periods – peak, off-peak, and shoulder, whilst others only offer peak and off-peak tariffs.

It’s also worth noting that some retailers offer time-of-use tariffs where the shoulder period offers the cheapest usage rate, rather than the off-peak period. For this reason, it’s important to check with your specific retailer to find out exactly which electricity period offers the cheapest tariff.

How do I know the specific off-peak hours in my area?

You will need to check with your electricity provider to determine the off-peak times applicable to your area. They will be able to provide you with accurate information regarding the specific off-peak hours in your area. By knowing the off-peak electricity times which apply to your household or business, you can optimise your energy use and potentially take advantage of lower electricity rates during those periods. 

How do I take advantage of cheaper electricity during off-peak hours?

Off-peak electricity is far cheaper to use than peak rate electricity. To potentially lower your power bills by using off-peak electricity, there are a few steps you’ll need to take: 

Have a digital or smart meter:

Check that your home or business has a digital electricity meter or a smart meter which can record time of use. If your property is still relying on an analog meter, you may be able to request an upgrade by contacting your electricity distributor.

Compare time-of-use tariffs:

once you’ve established that your electricity meter can record the time that you use electricity, you’ll need to compare electricity plans offering time of use tariffs. You can do this quickly and easily using Savvy’s free online comparison service.

Switch providers:

Once you’ve found a retailer offering a time of use tariff (also known as a flexible pricing plan) that you are comfortable with, make the switch to your new electricity provider. This will usually be handled on your behalf by your new retailer, who will organise the switch for you.

Alter your energy use times:

Once you know when the cheapest electricity period is with your particular retailer, the next step is to alter the hours when you use power-hungry appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers, pool filters, underfloor heaters and hot water heaters. Either use the appliance’s built-in timer to regulate operating hours, or install a separate timer.

For washing machines and dishwashers, take advantage of time delay buttons which enable to you have them running when you are asleep. If you regularly need to charge up lithium-ion batteries on gadgets like phones, laptops, battery-operated vacs or garden tools, have one power bank connected to a timer so that all such devices are charged during the period when electricity prices are lowest. 

Enjoy lower power bills:

by taking advantage of off-peak power prices, you can potentially save up to 30% or more on your power bills. Although the savings you can potentially enjoy will vary according to your electricity retailer’s specific pricing policy, using off-peak electricity is certainly a sensible and greener way of managing your household power consumption.  

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