This Stay-at-Home Mom Banked an Extra $1,700 Last Year. Here’s How

Tanya Williams plays with her youngest son, Noah, 4, before watching a movie in their home in Visalia, Calif., Wednesday, May 23, 2018. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder
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In 2017, Tanya Williams earned an extra $1,700. All she had to do was power down her home for a couple hours.

A few evenings each week, the 45-year-old stay-at-home mom rounded up the four of her five kids who still live at home and shut down her home’s electrical panel.

The family pulled open the blinds played board games, propped up a laptop and huddled around to watch a movie, or they’d go outside — head to the pool to find relief from the Visalia, California, heat.

“The kids really enjoyed it — even my adult kids,” Williams says of her children, who range in age from 3 to 23. “I didn’t expect that.”

The Williams family wasn’t necessarily focused on cutting their utility bills. Rather, they were participating in an #OhmHour, a term coined by OhmConnect, a California-based company that pays its users to save energy.

“It was kind of like the #OhmHour became a family hour,” Williams says.

Why OhmConnect Pays Users to Save Energy

The Williams family poses for a portrait in Visalia, Calif., on Wednesday, May 23, 2018.
The Williams family (left to right): Joshua, 22, Thomas, 12, Tanya, Noah, 4, Jesse, 18, and their father Jesse. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Nearly two years ago, Williams signed her household up for OhmConnect.

Her oldest son had heard of the service, was trying it in his apartment and told his mom about it.

Here’s how it works: OhmConnect issues, on average, two to three #OhmHours a week. An #OhmHour is triggered when the energy grid starts working in overdrive, causing a dirty power plant to turn on as compensation.

These #OhmHours typically occur in the evenings, when folks are returning home from work, cranking the air-conditioning, flipping on the TV and preheating the oven for dinner.

When you participate in an #OhmHour and save energy, OhmConnect will pay you. Why? OhmConnect sells your electricity savings back into the grid. When the power plants are able to remain off, the money saved goes into your pocket.

If you want to automate the process, you can even connect a smart thermostat or plug and let OhmConnect do this automatically. Even connecting some of your biggest energy-hogging devices to a smart plug can help you save $500 a year — effortlessly.

But you don’t need a smart device to save: The more you do, the more money you can make.

How This Stay-at-Home Mom Effortlessly Made $1,700 Last Year

The Williams family receives #OhmHour updates on their smart phone via email and text messages. They can also keep track of how many rewards they’ve earned. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

Using OhmConnect is a lot easier than explaining it.

Williams signed up by entering her ZIP code and utility information. OhmConnect has to read your meter to pay you for saving energy during these designated times.

OhmConnect can tap into a few utility companies to monitor your consumption. These include California PG&E, SDG&E and SCE; as well as Toronto Hydro.

The night before each #OhmHour is to occur, Williams receives an email — you can also opt in for texts. It lets Williams know the time of the upcoming #OhmHour, as well as how much energy the family needs to save to make it count and to make money. Earnings depend on the amount of energy you’ve saved and how often you participate.

The family then congregates to discuss how they’ll spend that one hour the following evening.

Board games? Movie? Evening swim? Picnic in the park?

(Left to right) Brothers Jesse, Joshua, Noah and Thomas play cards in Visalia, Calif., Wednesday, May 23, 2018.
The Williams family plans game nights and other activities to pass the time during #OhmHours. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder

When Williams first signed up for OhmConnect nearly two years ago, she’d head to her house’s power box and shut everything down at the beginning of each #OhmHour.

Now, though, she’s become savvier. She invested in three smart plugs through OhmConnect’s online store. Each one costs $34.99. Now, when an #OhmHour begins, the connected devices automatically switch off, making the process totally passive.

She also purchased a smart thermostat, which schedules her air-conditioning to turn off during an #OhmHour. These range from $99 to $250 in the OhmConnect store.

Now, Williams doesn’t have to do anything when an #OhmHour swings around; her smart devices handle it for her, and she’s still able to earn money.

The only downside? If the family is hosting a dinner party, everything still shuts down… which has totally happened before.

“We had a party over one time on accident… had 35 people in my house,” Williams says, laughing. (Don’t worry. You’ll always get those 24-hour warnings!)

When each OhmHour is over, Williams gets a text.

“It feels like an accomplishment,” she says. “I know it’s good for the environment, and it’s a little bit competitive, too.” She’s connected with family and friends through OhmConnect to add a competitive edge to her energy saving. “I’m second place on my team right now.”

After an #OhmHour, each family member goes back to doing their own thing until OhmConnect announces the next #OhmHour.

By participating in #OhmHours, Williams banked $1,700 through OhmConnect in 2017.

How to Start Making Money — by Saving Energy

Power lines cross over Kettleman City, west of Visalia, Calif., on May 23, 2018.
Power lines cross over Kettleman City, west of Visalia, Calif., on May 23, 2018. Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder.

You could say Williams has mastered the art of OhmConnect. The $1,700 the family banked last year went toward a two-week family trip to Rome.

This year, Williams says, the profit will go toward paying her utility bills.

Although her earnings have been down this winter — which she attributes to her new house’s solar panels — she suspects it’ll pick back up this summer.

And sure, the extra money is nice, but, more than anything, Williams likes knowing she’s helping the environment.

“It’s a good way to be more conscientious about your energy-spending habits,” she says. “You’re just making a little bit of change on the side to help our grid out. I’m more of an advocate for that.”

Enter your ZIP code here to open a free OhmConnect account, then sync it with your online utility account through PG&E, SDG&E or Southern California Edison to start earning extra cash. For a limited time, new customers get a $10 Amazon gift card.

Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. Unfortunately she lives in Florida so she can’t use OhmConnect. Instead, she saves money on her electric bill by refusing to turn her heat on in the winter — even when the thermostat reads 62 degrees.