Now that summer is officially upon us, it's likely that your air conditioning has begun running a lot more frequently. There are lots of ideas for how to stay cool without racking up a crazy energy bill, but the Nest Learning Thermostat now has new features that make cost-cutting decisions for you.
The smart thermostat has been helping users to save energy and cut costs since it was first released, but as utilities start to look into ways to lower demand during peak energy use times, Nest is rolling out features that help both consumers and utilities find the right balance.
In a blog post this week, Nest explained that every energy company has different strategies for how they incentivize off-peak energy use. Some utilities offer incentives for using less energy, while others have different pricing for different times of day where energy consumed during peak hours is more expensive. Those are called Time of Use plans.
Nest has unveiled a new program called Time of Savings where customers of utility companies using Time of Use plans can sign up to have their electricity rates shared with Nest. The user's thermostat will then try to use less electricity when it's more expensive by running preferred cooling or heating cycles strategically outside of those times.
Nest says, "So if your thermostat sees that you like to cool things down at noon, but that’s when electricity prices spike, it might start cooling the house at 11:30 when energy’s still cheap. Or it can slightly adjust the temperature when you’re in peak pricing periods – never more than a degree or two – so you can save some cash while staying comfortable."
While this program helps consumers stay comfortable while avoiding hefty energy bills, it also helps utilities cut down their peak energy demand loads. When energy demand spikes at certain points of the day, energy companies often have to utilize back-up coal-fired power plants to help meet demand, which increases carbon emissions. Smart home and smart grid technologies can help balance the energy demand throughout the day so that back-up power plants don't need to be used.
Right now Nest is launching the Time of Savings program with SolarCity customers while Southern California Edison and other major energy companies are coming soon.