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Switch Makes Cents

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In an effort to better educate our members on the benefits of participating in our load management program, we started a quarterly contest in the newsletter called “Are You Switch Smart?” Thank you to our members for letting us come into your home to install your replacement switch.

Click the button below for more info on our new Switch Makes Cents Promotion!

Are you Switch Smart?

image graphic of the switch makes cents logo.
Member Service Director Rob Driesen, installing a switch makes cents meter in a members' home.

Load Management Cuts Costs on Your Electric Bill.

North West REC works closely with our power supplier, Northwest Iowa Power Cooperative (NIPCO), to operate the load management system and to reduce power costs for our members.

How It Works

Ideally, an electric generation and transmission system operates most efficiently when the load remains constant 24 hours a day. However, reality has shown electricity use varies from hour to hour, creating peaks and valleys in the load pattern. Load management switches, installed on equipment such as water heaters, air conditioners, crop dryers, irrigation systems, qualifying large loads and heat systems can help level the load pattern.

Electric load levels are continually monitored through a substation at NIPCO. During peak periods, when the load reaches a predetermined level, a radio signal is sent to the switch from the NIPCO control center to interrupt power. When the signals cease, the controlled equipment returns to normal operation.

Benefits for Our Members

North West REC has installed more than 5,000 load management switches in our service territory since the program began in 1985. Customers report they have experienced little or no inconvenience with Switch Makes Cents; most say they have not noticed their equipment being controlled. By controlling load use, we realize savings on our wholesale power costs, allowing us to pass that savings to our members through the lower, Switch Makes Cents rates.

Members who have electric heat as their primary heat source in their home or commercial or agriculture building, may qualify for Switch Makes Cents electric heat rates. This reduced sub-metered rate applies to all electricity used for electric heat and air conditioning, as well as electric water heater use. The primary heat source must be electric, and electricity is wired to load management.

Details include:
• Members must have at least 10 kW of electric heat
• A sub-meter records kilowatt-hour usage
• Air conditioning and water heating load must also be controlled
• The rate is $.049/kWh for electricity used for the water heater and electric heat and air conditioning; the primary heat source must be electric

Another way our members save with Switch Makes Cents, is through our rebate program, which helps with equipment purchase and installation costs.

Common Questions & Answers


What is “Load Management”?

Load Management is one of the easiest ways for members to become active in their cooperative and save some money on their electric bills. The program assists your cooperative by deferring the need to construct additional power plants or purchase power from external sources to meet the energy needs of our members. Load management programs give cooperative members the power to become partners in the effort to control electricity rates. The Switch Makes Cents Load Management Program helps stabilize future power costs to the cooperative and reduces power plant emissions for a cleaner environment. This works by shifting the energy used by electric heating systems, electric water heaters, and other electric appliances to off-peak times. This saves money for all cooperative members in the form of stable rates.

Why is it important to reduce peak demand?

Peak demand determines, in part, the cost of electricity purchased by our wholesale power provider, NIPCO. As peak demand grows, power suppliers must provide more electric generation to keep up with the load demand.

Energy consumption is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). Power demand is measured in watts (W) or kilowatts (kW). A lightbulb “consumes” a certain number of watts: let’s say 100 watts per hour. If that light bulb stays on for 10 hours, it “demands” a certain number of kilowatts (in this case, 1 kW) from the generation station producing electricity. Now, if you turn on 10, 100-watt lightbulbs in your home for one hour, you are still consuming the same number of kW. However, you are placing a greater demand on the co-op to have those kW available to you over the course of one hour, instead of ten. This requires the generation plant to produce more power in less time to meet the energy demands of all members at the same time. It also requires expanded infrastructure (similar to a 4-lane interstate expanding to 8 lanes to meet the demands of rush hour traffic).

Our co-op purchases kilowatt hours from our G&T (NIPCO) based on the demand for our members. Peak demand refers to the moment in time when the demand for electricity is the highest. If there isn’t enough electric generation produced to keep up with peak demand, more generation facilities may need to be built which means a higher price per kilowatt and more cost to you, our member-owner.

By helping to reduce peak demand, you can help keep power cost lower and conserve energy.

Switch Makes Cents is a Load Management Program

Switch Makes Cents is a load management program that our cooperative has offered to members since 1985. In fact, our co-op served as an early pioneer of this technology. It is energy efficient and curbs electric demand during peak times to prevent the need to build additional generating facilities or incur higher wholesale power costs. The Switch Makes Cents load management program reduces our system peak by as much as 20 megawatts (MW) in the summer and 12 MW in the winter...the equivalent of powering approximately 3,200 homes! This is done by reducing total demand during times of peak-use, generally between 6-10AM and 3-9PM, when people are commonly at home running washers, dryers, dishwashers, air conditioners, heaters and so on. On average, the Switch Makes Cents program saves 100.7 MW per year for a total of $1.6 M benefit to North West REC.

How Does the Program Work?

By signing up for the Switch Makes Cents load management program, you get a direct savings as well as help the cooperative save on our wholesale bill which, in turn, helps reduce everyone's power bill. Air conditioners, water heaters, electric heating applications (duel fuel and storage heat) and other equipment qualify for the Switch Makes Cents load management program. North West REC will install a Load Management switch in your home, on your farm, or in your commercial business. This switch allows the connected unit to be interrupted for brief intervals of operation during times of peak

What, equipment can be controlled?

  • Electric Water heaters (tankless water heaters are ineligible for the Switch Makes Cents program)
  • Electric Air cooling and heating systems
  • Electric Irrigators
  • Electric Generators

How Does My Switch Work?

The load management switch is controlled by either a radio or cellular signal or carried through your co-op’s distribution power lines. On days when the demand for electricity is nearing peak levels, a signal is transmitted to the load control switch to interrupt the connected equipment. In most cases, HVAC fans will continue to run in the home and water heaters that are properly sized for your use will hold a reserve of hot water—you should notice little difference in your comfort. The combined effect of all the switches on our system allows for a reduction in peak demand.

Take a look at your load control switch. If the light is red, the connected equipment is being interrupted.

When does the program control appliances?

While the load management program operates year-round, connected equipment is not interrupted every day. When needed to reduce peak demand, switches will interrupt operation of your qualifying electric devices during the following times*:

  • Summer operating season is June 1 through September 30. Normal summer control periods occur, as needed, between the hours of noon - 10:00 PM
  • Winter operating season is October 1 through May 31. Normal winter control periods occur, as needed, between the hours of 6AM - noon and 4:00 PM – 10:00 PM. Typically, heat is only controlled during the month of May.

*These dates and times are subject to change, on an annual basis, without notice.

How do I get the switch?

The switch is not only installed at no cost but also maintained by North West REC free of charge. Any questions about switch operation will be handled promptly when North West REC is first contacted. The switches must remain intact and should not be removed, adjusted or altered by anyone other than a North West REC employee.*

*If tampering is suspected, the member will be removed from the load management program for 12 months.

Do I have to own the residence?

Because the HVAC equipment is owned by a homeowner, permission must be granted by the homeowner before the installation of a switch is possible.

Will the switch damage my air conditioner, heat pump, water heater, or irrigator?

The load management switch will only interrupt the flow of electric current to your equipment and will not damage the unit.

Do I need to be home when the switch is installed or operated?

It is required for the property owner or other designated adult to be home when installing a switch. We will work with you to schedule a convenient time to install the switch or to replace your switch with upgraded technology to improve the program and your level of benefit.

Once installed, the switch will operate automatically from signals sent through the load management system. You do not need to be home to monitor or operate the switch; it’s totally automated.

Switch Makes Cents Savings

When you opt in to participate in the Switch Makes Cents load management program, you will have the benefit of avoiding peak demand costs as well as receiving a reduced energy rate or incentive bill credits just for opting-in to Switch Makes Cents. North West REC Interruptible Heat/AC/WH rates can be seen here.

How do I sign up?

It's easy to participate! Members can visit or call our office at 712-707-7935 or 800-766-2099 to learn more and be connected with an Energy Advisor who will be happy to visit with you more about the program and share how Switch Makes Cents can benefit you.