“Smart” programmable thermostats have helped many people reduce their electric bills. But fresh out of the box, even smart thermostats need some help from their owners. They either need to be programmed or given some time to learn your cooling schedule so that they can automatically adjust to fit your preferences.

This is something to keep in mind if you’re using one of Tucson Electric Power’s Time-of-Use (TOU) plans. It’s important to minimize cooling and heating your home during on-peak hours to avoid an increase in your monthly electric bills.

Our TOU, Peak Demand and Demand TOU plans give you the power to reduce your monthly electric bills when you shift your energy usage to off-peak hours. Avoiding energy usage during the weekday on-peak hours of 3-7 p.m. from May to September and 6-9 a.m. and 6-9 p.m. from October to April can result in significant savings.

Timing is everything.

One thermostat manufacturer – ecobee – offers a feature that simplifies programming your thermostat by syncing the customer’s thermostat settings with their utility’s TOU rates.

“We are excited to share that TEP’s TOU rates are now available through the ecobee app. By selecting their respective rate through the eco+ settings and ensuring ecobee’s Time of Use feature is enabled, TEP customers can now automate energy savings while maintaining their desired comfort,” said Sarah Colvin, ecobee Energy Senior Director.

The eco+ Time of Use feature will intelligently pre-cool or pre-heat the home during off-peak hours when energy is less expensive, helping TEP customers reduce their cooling costs by up to 23 percent, she said. That estimate is based on a study conducted by a third-party expert during June and August 2020 across the U.S. and Canada. Your experience may differ, as the study indicated that savings vary by season, climate zone and rate structure.

“We are thrilled to work with TEP to deliver deeper savings and enhanced comfort to our customers,” Colvin said.

TEP also is working with other manufacturers to see if they also might develop and offer a similar feature on their smart thermostats. We began exploring this feature after one of our customers requested a preset program for TEP’s TOU rates on his ecobee thermostat.

Tammy McKay, Residential Energy Efficiency Program Manager, has one cautionary note for any customer using their thermostat’s preset features. “It’s always a good idea to doublecheck your thermostat schedule settings to make sure they’re working as expected and in alignment with our TOU hours. In most cases, you can manually adjust it if the times are slightly off.”

One way to keep your home cool during on-peak hours is to pre-cool your home beforehand. Set the thermostat three degrees lower than your preferred setting at noon. Then adjust your thermostat higher from 3-7 p.m.

McKay said you should see a reduction in your monthly energy usage and costs. “If you don’t, it’s possible your home is losing energy through cracks around windows and doors or leaks in your home’s envelope,” she said.

Simple and inexpensive fixes include installing door sweeps and weather stripping around doors, and caulking around windows and areas where plumbing, ducts, cables and wiring enter the home. Duct sealing also may prevent cooled air from escaping. TEP offers rebates of up to $300 on duct sealing through our Efficient Home program.

Reducing the amount of air that leaks in and out of your home is a cost-effective way to reduce your annual energy costs by up to 10 percent as well as reduce cold drafts and improve indoor air quality.

“While smart thermostats are a helpful tool for managing energy usage and costs,” McKay said, “knowing how to use them properly and taking a ‘whole house’ approach to energy efficiency can result in the greatest energy savings.”

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