When summer temperatures climb, demand for electricity can strain the grid. That’s why we tested a new program this summer that rewards customers for turning up the thermostat a few degrees when it matters most.

The results? The TEP Smart Rewards program demonstrated that smart thermostats can be a powerful tool for energy management and environmental sustainability.

In the program’s first summer, more than 6,900 customers participated in nine “events,” collectively saving enough energy to power the equivalent of roughly 2,300 homes. This program came at a perfect time as Tucson boiled through the third hottest summer on record, largely as a result of a string of record-setting temperatures in July.

Customers who participate in the Smart Rewards program receive a $50 e-gift card for allowing small, temporary adjustments to their thermostats in times of peak energy demand. They also receive another $40 gift card for each year they remain in the program. Customers can register up to two thermostats per household to double their rewards, which amounts to $90 for one thermostat or $180 for two thermostats for their first year in the program.

“We were incredibly grateful to our participating customers who did their part to conserve household energy when Tucson needed it the most,” said Julie Donavant, Principle of TEP’s Energy Programs.

“Lowering electric demand helps reduce the need for new power sources to meet energy needs. That’s good for the environment, and it helps keep energy costs low for everyone. Customers have always been part of the solution by choosing to use energy wisely. Our experience over the summer demonstrates that programs like this can be another tool in ensuring reliable, affordable and sustainable service.”

Smart Rewards program participants agreed to brief adjustments of up to 4 degrees or less to their thermostats during peak electric demand periods from June 1 through September 30, including weekends and holidays. Adjustments typically lasted no more than three hours. While a program season could include up to 20 events, only nine were actually needed.

Importantly, customers always maintain control of their device and can opt out at any time.

Here are four big takeaways after we evaluated customer feedback from this summer’s events:

  • Small adjustments can provide a big boost for reliability. According to the S. Energy Information Administration, cooling and heating account for up to half of a typical home’s energy usage. But that percentage is higher in Southern Arizona, where extended use of air conditioning is a necessity during our long, hot summers. Adjusting air conditioning usage can make a big impact over the summer.
  • Most participants experienced minimal impact and remained in the program. Since events only affect the temperature by a few degrees, about 69 percent of survey respondents reported feeling little or no discomfort during the scheduled events.
  • Participants want to support the community. A recurring theme among respondents is that they were motivated to do their part to support reliable energy for everyone.
  • Precooling helps participants stay comfortable longer. The program tested precooling by lowering the thermostat up to 3 degrees prior to the event to help participants stay cooler longer. In most cases, participants who participated in precooling reported they felt more comfortable during the events.

Although the program only runs during the summer, TEP continues to welcome new participants throughout the year. If you have questions about the Smart Rewards program, please visit https://www.thermostatrewards.com/tepbyot.

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