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Learn about Rush Hour Rewards

Energy Rush Hours are like traffic rush hours. Just as traffic clogs up roads when everyone drives to work at the same time, Energy Rush Hours occur when everyone in a particular area turns on air conditioning (AC) or heating at once. Imagine what can happen when millions of people turn on their air conditioners during a heat wave. This, in addition to all the usual energy use in households (running the refrigerator, the TV, lights, computers etc.) creates a peak in energy demand and increases costs.

To keep up with demand, utilities may need to bring additional power plants online. It’s expensive to run these power plants only for a few hours on a few days a year, so peak demand increases everybody’s costs.

There’s a better way. If enough people band together to reduce energy during these peaks they can become a virtual power plant. This lowers costs for energy companies and they’re willing to reward you for it.

We originally created the Rush Hour Rewards program to
help alleviate electricity demands during heat waves in
the summer. Because it was so successful, we’ve
expanded Rush Hour Rewards to work for natural gas as
well as the winter season, so more people can get
rewards. Now Nest thermostat owners can participate in
Winter Rush Hour Rewards and Summer Rush Hour
Rewards to earn rewards from their energy company
year round. Winter and Summer Rush Hour Rewards
are separate programs, so some energy companies will offer
both, while others may offer only one.
Nest thermostat rush hour rewards info

What Rush Hour Rewards does

Rush Hour Rewards helps you earn rewards for saving energy during peak demand periods, while still keeping you comfortable. Your Nest thermostat will automatically tune temperatures during a Rush Hour to reduce energy use and lower grid costs. You don’t have to worry about when the next Rush Hour is coming or remember to adjust the temperature. Rush Hour Rewards does it for you. And if you ever get uncomfortable, you can simply change the temperature on your thermostat. For complete step-by-step details, see the articles linked below.

Differences between Winter and Summer Rush Hours

You can get rewards for participating in both Winter and Summer Rush Hours, but Summer Rewards are typically higher since there is generally more demand for electricity when it’s warm. Ask your energy company to learn about their specific offers.

The main difference is when Rush Hours happen. Winter Rush Hours can happen in the morning or afternoon while Summer Rush Hours usually occur in the afternoons or early evenings.

How often Rush Hours happen

Rush Hours typically happen on very hot summer days or very cold winter days - usually about 6-12 times a season. But this number depends on the overall weather patterns for the season and your Nest energy partner. If extreme weather, such as a heat wave, hits, you might have a few Rush Hours days in a row, but typically, you won’t get more than one Rush Hour in a day or more than 15-20 Rush Hour days per season (winter or summer).

Likewise, the length of a Rush Hour can change based on weather conditions. Most Rush Hours are 2-4 hours long, but sometimes rapidly changing weather conditions, like an unexpected heat wave, can cause a surge in electricity use as people try to keep their homes cool. Energy companies need to react quickly to avoid turning on new power plants. When this happens, you may experience more frequent Rush Hours, but these events will usually be shorter, 30-90 minutes. Just like with longer Rush Hours you’ll still be notified about these shorter Rush Hours, and you can change the temperature on your thermostat if you want.

In most energy partner programs, you’ll receive a seasonal Rush Hour Rewards payment or incentive for your participation no matter how mild or extreme the weather is, or how many Rush Hours there were.

Critical Rush Hours

Very rarely, your energy company may have a Critical
Rush Hour with little to no warning. These are a last
resort to avoid rolling blackouts and other potential
electrical grid issues. Because of the last-minute
timing, your system won’t be able to pre-cool or pre-
heat your home ahead of the Rush Hour. In addition,
they may occur more than once per day or per week if
there is a severe spike in electricity demand. Critical
Rush Hours can also happen on any day of the week
and at any time of the day. Otherwise, Critical Rush
Hours work the same way as a regular Rush Hour with
your thermostat tuning your heating or cooling, while
still keeping you comfortable.


How to sign up for Rush Hour Rewards

To participate in Summer Rush Hour Rewards, you’ll need to have central air conditioning that’s controlled by a Nest thermostat. For Winter Rush Hour Rewards, you’ll need an electric heating system that’s controlled by a Nest thermostat such as a heat pump or electric furnace. These systems may deliver heat through in-floor or wall mounted radiators, or forced air vents.

We’ve made it easy to enroll. Just check that your energy provider offers the Rush Hour Rewards program on our Nest Rebates and Rewards page. For detailed steps, see the article linked below:

What kinds of rewards you'll get

The rewards you’ll earn, when you’ll be notified of a Rush Hour, and other details all depend on your energy company, so check with them for specifics. Here are some examples of how your energy company may pay you:

  • Most energy companies offer a reward for each season you participate. They may also provide others incentives to enroll, such as discounts or a thermostat at no additional charge.
  • Some energy companies will give you a credit on your electric bill.
  • Some energy companies will reward you per Rush Hour. These companies calculate how to reward you by comparing your energy use during a Rush Hour to the amount of energy you normally use. Keep in mind that your energy company will measure the total amount of energy you use during the Rush Hour, so if you’re running the washer, the dryer or other major appliances - you may reduce your rewards.

How Rush Hour Rewards is different than other demand response programs

Rush Hour Rewards is different because it automatically balances energy savings and comfort. You also stay in control and can change the temperature any time during a Rush Hour.

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