Savings on Heating Costs

The first chilly days of October might seem an odd time to remind readers about a program offered by the region’s electric utility to reduce demand on the hottest days of summer, but stick with us. PSEG Long Island has been giving away programmable thermostats to residential customers with central air-conditioning through its South Fork Peak Savers incentive. When the web-connected devices are installed, they can be adjusted remotely by a few degrees, saving ratepayers money and helping reduce overall electricity consumption during periods of greatest strain on the grid.

From the utility’s perspective, every watt it does not have to buy — or make in temporary, polluting diesel-fueled “peaker” plants — is money saved. And, every watt not produced limits greenhouse gas emissions, helping all of us. And ratepayers save money, but we said that already.

Easy-to-install Nest-brand thermostats are provided to households under a few conditions. First, there must be central air-conditioning. Second, customers have to enroll in something called Rush Hour Rewards, which actually pays them for remotely changing settings by between one and three barely perceptible degrees — often when no one is home to notice the difference. 

“Smart” thermostats like the Nest can sense when a house is empty or when it is very late at night, and make energy-saving adjustments. They also can be monitored remotely and turned up or down on a smartphone app, allowing participants to override the Peak Savers program or adjust personal settings.

In addition to the free thermostat or rebate, participants get $25 a summer for sticking around.  And that’s not all, as they say on TV; smart thermostats can reduce summer cooling and winter heating bills up to 20 percent. Nest says a change of as little as a degree can cut costs by as much as 8 percent. 

Along the same lines, National Grid offers a $75 rebate to residential gas customers who purchase Nest or another brand of remotely controllable thermostats. The bottom line is that winter and summer savings could add up to a great deal of money — and have a positive effect on the environment.

This has been updated to clarify the program terms.