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What is Rush Hour Rewards?

Rush Hour Rewards is a service that helps you earn money back from your energy company by using less energy when everyone else is using more. Rush Hour Rewards is only available to customers of Nest’s energy company partners.

Rush Hour Rewards is currently available to Nest Learning Thermostat owners with air conditioners who sign up with Nest’s energy company partners.

See participating partners and to sign up

Nest needed to partner with utilities in order to receive information about upcoming energy rush hours. This information allows Rush Hour Rewards to effectively anticipate rush hours and help maximize your rewards.

What are energy rush hours?

Energy rush hours are like traffic rush hours. Just as traffic clogs up roads when everyone drives home at the same time, energy rush hours occur when everyone in a particular area turns on air conditioning (AC) at once.

Energy rush hours typically happen on very hot summer days - usually about 8-12 times a year. Because there’s only so much electricity to go around, these rush hours can lead to brownouts, or even outages. To keep up with demand, utilities need to bring additional power plants online that sometimes use dirtier energy. If things get really bad, they may even start building new power plants.

So it’s actually better for the utilities to pay their customers to use less energy during rush hours. Rush Hour Rewards automatically helps you earn the biggest payments while still keeping you comfortable.

What does Rush Hour Rewards do?

Rush Hour Rewards automatically tweaks temperatures around upcoming rush hours so you earn the biggest rewards. 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.

Rush Hour Rewards can save energy in a few different ways, depending on what it’s learned from you and your home: for example, it might raise or lower the temperature in your home by a few degrees during the rush hour and/or pre-cool your home before the rush hour begins, in order to make sure you are reasonably comfortable while using less energy.

In the example below, you’ve set your Nest Learning Thermostat to cool to 78ºF (26ºC). Without Rush Hour Rewards, you end up using air conditioning throughout the rush hour to keep your home cool as the day heats up.

With Rush Hour Rewards, your Nest Thermostat knows the rush hour will start at 2pm, so it starts pre-cooling around 1pm. Using a little more energy before the rush hour helps the Nest Thermostat use less during the critical period between 2-6pm. During the rush hour, your Nest Thermostat will turn the air conditioner on and off as needed to balance your comfort and how much you earn back from your energy company. In this example, the combination of pre-cooling and short periods of cooling during the rush hour means you use 40% less AC when it matters most.

Rush Hour Rewards will make larger adjustments to the temperature when you’re away and subtler adjustments if you’re home. Regardless, it will only change the temperature a few degrees at most, always keeping your comfort in mind.

You are in control, even when Rush Hour Rewards is working - simply change the temperature during a rush hour. Your Nest Thermostat will keep the temperatures you set, then return to your regular schedule.

What should I expect?

You’ll never get more than one rush hour in a day or rush hours for more than three days in a row. Rush hours usually take place in the afternoons. There are rarely more than a dozen rush hour days per summer, however the number you experience depends on the weather and where you live.

Before the rush hour:

  • You’ll get a notification on your Nest Thermostat, the Nest app and the Web the night before that tells you what time the rush hour will start and end. You can turn notifications on or off in SETTINGS > UTILITY on the Nest app. Very rarely, your energy company may have an emergency rush hour with little to no warning. These rush hours are a last resort to avoid rolling blackouts, but will otherwise work exactly the same way as regular rush hours.
  • If you have more than one thermostat, you’ll get a notification for each thermostat that qualifies for Rush Hour Rewards (to qualify, a thermostat must control cooling). Note that if your energy company rewards you per rush hour, that reward is based on how much you save overall, not per thermostat.
  • Before the rush hour begins, you may see a gold gear and the words PRE-COOLING on your Nest Thermostat as it starts cooling down your home. Pre-cooling is like leaving early before traffic starts - using a little more energy before a rush hour helps your Nest Learning Thermostat use less energy during one.

During the rush hour:

  • You’ll see a gold gear () and the words RUSH HOUR on the display.
  • Your Nest Learning Thermostat will adjust your target temperature up to a few degrees, possibly more if you’re away.
  • You can change the temperature any time. When you change the temperature, your Nest Thermostat will notify you that making a change will cause Rush Hour Rewards to stop running and the gold gear to disappear. Note that if your change is to turn down the AC to save even more energy, the gear will disappear, but you’ll still earn rewards.

After the rush hour:

  • When the rush hour is over, your Nest Thermostat will return to its regular schedule.
  • You’ll be able to spot the temperatures that Rush Hour Rewards adjusted in your Energy History the next day. They’ll be highlighted by a gold ring.
  • If you made changes during a rush hour on one or more of your thermostats, your Nest Thermostat will send you a message letting you know that your reward may be less than expected due to your changes.
  • More info about your energy savings from Rush Hour Rewards will also be available in your monthly Energy Report.

How much will I get paid?

How much you earn depends on your energy provider:

  • Some energy companies will pay you a flat fee for the season.
  • For some energy companies, your payment will be bundled into the service or included in a rebate.
  • Some will pay you per rush hour. These energy companies calculate how much to pay you by comparing your energy use during a rush hour to the amount of energy you normally use. If you have multiple thermostats, you’ll get paid for your aggregate savings from all the Nest Thermostats in your home.

If you’re paid by the rush hour, each energy company has its own way of calculating what your “normal energy use” is and how to compare it to energy use during a rush hour. For example, say there’s a rush hour from 3-6pm on Tuesday - an energy company may compare how much energy you use during the rush hour to how much energy you used from 3-6pm in three out of the past five business days (usually the three days that you used the most energy). They’ll factor in all energy use in the house, including your lights, fridge and washing machine. Then you’ll be paid the difference.

Keep in mind that the energy company will measure the total amount of energy you use during the rush hour, so if you use energy in other ways - like running the washer or dryer or the pool pump - you may not get your full rewards.

Want to know exactly how much you’ll get paid, when you’ll be notified and other details? Learn more about a specific Nest energy partner plan

How do I turn off Rush Hour Rewards?

You’re always in control. You can override Rush Hour Rewards at any time by simply changing the temperature on your Nest Thermostat. Then, confirm that you want Rush Hour Rewards to stop. The gold gear will disappear and won’t appear again until the next rush hour.

Learn more about how to cancel Rush Hour Rewards


How is Rush Hour Rewards different than Demand Response programs?

Demand Response programs (sometimes called direct load control programs) are offered by energy companies to encourage their customers to use less energy during energy rush hours. In this they have the same goal as Rush Hour Rewards. The difference is that Rush Hour Rewards takes your preferences and what your Nest Thermostat has learned from you into account to ensure you’re comfortable. It lets you take control and change the temperature at any time, while other programs either cut your power off entirely or leave it up to you to remember.

Demand Response plans are often designed in one of two ways:

  • Your energy company cuts off power during a rush hour. This means customers can't turn on the AC even if they need it. While this option earns you maximum incentives, it requires that you give up all control of your comfort in your home for a few hours.
  • Your energy company asks that you adjust the temperature on your own. With this option, the energy company might send an email or call the day before to let you know about a rush hour the next day. Trouble is, when it’s time to change the temperature, customers often forget or are away from home, forfeiting their incentives. Even if they are at home, it can be confusing how much to change the temperature to get the most rewards while remaining comfortable.

Rush Hour Rewards is different because it:

  • Notifies you the night before that a rush hour is coming, right on the thermostat as well as on your phone, tablet or laptop.
  • Adjusts the temperature for you during a rush hour, rather than just shutting off your AC.
  • Makes sure you’re comfortable throughout the rush hour. It uses everything your Nest Thermostat has learned about you to ensure that temperatures always stay within a reasonable range.
  • Gives you control. You can always change the temperature during a rush hour.

What technology powers Rush Hour Rewards?

Rush Hour Rewards is powered by Auto-Tune, the new Nest technology designed to help you save money.

Learn more about Auto-Tune