South Fork Peak Savers offers free smart thermostats

A Simple Change That Saves Money

As autumn settles in and homeowners start to think about the grim prospect of paying their winter heating bill, the notion of looking for ways to reduce their electric bill during the dog days of summer ends up on the back burner, so to speak.

But Bruce Humenik, the executive vice president of Applied Energy Group, an energy consulting company that runs South Fork Peak Savers, says any time of year is the right time to take advantage of his company’s simple — and cost-effective — program.

South Fork Peak Savers contracts with PSEG-Long Island to reduce peak demand for electricity on the South Fork. Statistics show that “demand for electricity is growing twice as fast on the South Fork” as it is elsewhere across Long Island, Humenik said, “and what drives peak demand on the South Fork is air conditioning.”

The company’s goal, he continued, is to reduce demand by eight megawatts a year by next summer and continue that for the next eight years.

To help reduce that top demand, which occurs only a few days each summer, Peak Savers will give residential customers smart thermostats. That’s right, it gives them away.

In return for the Nest or Honeywell thermostats, which can cost $250, customers agree to allow Peak Savers to raise the temperature in their homes by one to three degrees during those days when the grid is pushed beyond the limits of its capacity. The program is only open to homeowners who have central air conditioning.

That tiny effort, when spread over thousands of customers, is enough to avoid brownouts and blackouts on those hot and humid days in mid-August when everyone with a second home on the South Fork is in town and the AC is cranked up, Humenik said.

It also means that PSEG, which manages the grid for the Long Island Power Authority, does not have to build costlier infrastructure, including small power generators called “peaker plants,” to be able to meet the extra demand.

“We are on an island to begin with, and the South Fork is a peninsula with very few ways in and out,” Humenik said. “If you are trying to get more power to the community, it’s a challenge.”

Smart thermostats learn the habits of a home’s occupants and automatically adjust the temperature so it is not too hot or cold when they are home and moderate it when they leave. When PSEG anticipates that a given day will be extra hot, it can override the thermostats to reduce demand. “You aren’t even going to notice it,” Humenik said of the temporary change in temperature.

Humenik estimates that a home with smart thermostats can easily result in savings of $175 to $200 for both air conditioning and heating.

So far, about 2000 customers have signed up for the program. Humenik estimates that of the approximately 50,000 customers on the East End, about 42,000 are residential customers who might qualify for the Peak Savers program. “Our biggest problem is getting people to believe that it is free,” Humenik said.

Peak Savers also offers rebates of up to $950 for residential customers who replace their old pool pumps with energy-efficient variable speed pumps. Old pumps “are energy hogs and you can save 90 percent of your energy use if you go from a normal to a variable speed pump,” he said.

The company also works with commercial customers, offering free LED lighting that greatly reduces their electric demand.

“It’s like the grand experiment,” he said of the company’s programs. “We want to see if a community can make a choice to reduce its demand or wind up with additional infrastructure.”

For more information about South Fork Peak Savers, call 833-346-2181 or send an email to info@southforkpeaksavers.com.

sjkotz@indyeastend.com