Lots of utilities have lately begun the process of moving customers from standard electrical plans to Time of Use Plans. These plans charge more for power during peak times, and charge less for power during non-peak times. For example, my utility PGE has my on a Time of Use plan where power costs more between 4-8pm on weekdays, and less at other times.
If you own a Nest Learning Thermostat, this shift to Time of Use plans provides an interesting opportunity to save some money. If you can avoid running your heating or air conditioning during peak times, you can save yourself some serious cash each day. As a bonus, you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint during these times, too, since most utilities rely on dirtier power during peak times.
How to Tweak Your Nest Thermostat for Time of Use Pricing
Tweaking your Nest Learning Thermostat for Time of Use pricing is pretty simple. Firstly, log onto the Nest web interface or open the Nest app and switch off auto-scheduling. You want to be able to set your own schedule manually.
Next, take a look at your power bill or the website for your utility and determine when your peak hours are. Your goal is to set up a schedule for your Nest thermostat that prevents your HVAC system from running during those hours. To do that, go the the Nest interface or app, find the Schedule tab, and set up a manual schedule.
For each day, add a new set point at the beginning of your peak period. For me, that’s 4pm on weekdays. Set the temperature on that set-point to an eco-friendly value. For example, I set it to 69 degrees during the Winter. That’s a bit chilly, but pretty tolerable. Importantly, keeping my temperature at that point during peak times will mean that I run my heater less during those times, saving me Peak usage and cash.
Next, add another set point for the end of your Peak time each day (again, mine is 8pm). For these set points, set the temperature to your preferred indoor temperature. Once you’ve reached the end of your Peak period, you want your system to revert to heating or cooling your home normally.
With this setup, your Nest Learning Thermostat will automatically set the temperature in your home to an eco-friendly (and wallet-friendly) temperature at the beginning of each Peak period. You’ll stay at that temperature throughout the period, saving you cash. When the Peak period ends, the second set point will revert your system to a normal temperature. Over time, this should reduce your Peak usage, saving you cash and reducing your carbon footprint.
You can get even more creative and add more set points to pre-heat or pre-cool your house. For example, I set a point at 3pm to bump my house up to 72 degrees. That way, when my thermostat drops the temperature to 69 during my Peak period, my house will still have plenty of retained warmth and will remain comfortable.
Things To Remember
Remember that you’ll need to add set points for each day of the week, which can be a little repetitive. You’ll also need to change all your set points when the season switches and you move from heating to cooling.
Still, if you do this right, you can save yourself some cash and some carbon with about 30 minutes spent tweaking your thermostat, and really put its programmability to work.