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Dec. 9, 2019

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Energy Adviser: Free smart thermostats offer smart way to save

The Columbian
Published: May 21, 2019, 6:05am

Folks on a tight budget know that when it comes to saving money, every dollar counts.

If you can relate all too well to that statement, Clark Public Utilities wants to help. The utility is offering select customers the installation of a free smart thermostat that makes it easy to reduce your consumption and save some money on your heating and cooling bills all year long.

“These thermostats make saving energy very convenient, but the retail price is often too steep for many of the folks who could really use them,” said Clark Public Utilities Energy Services Manager Debbie DePetris. “This new program was specifically created to help our limited income customers take advantage of this new technology to lower their monthly utility bills.”

Through the utility’s Limited Income Smart Thermostat Program, your household may qualify for free installation of a smart thermostat and up to 10 LED lightbulbs — all valued at more than $250 — regardless of whether you rent or own your home.

The utility’s Board of Commissioners set aside some of last year’s surplus funds to cover the purchase and installation of NEST thermostats for more than 2,600 qualifying customers.

Heating and cooling account for almost half of a home’s energy consumption and utility bill. Smart thermostats are designed to help you get the most for your money. In fact, they are one of the lowest effort/highest return home energy savings tools you can deploy.

Smart thermostats can learn your daily schedule, temperature preferences and even use local weather patterns to automatically keep your home climate comfortable while reducing energy waste. For the first few weeks, the thermostat learns your household’s comfort zones and behaviors then determines how to maximize efficiency and comfort. From there it essentially runs itself. They can also be monitored and controlled from a smartphone or tablet while you’re away.

What’s more, they can send you maintenance reminders, such as furnace filter replacement times and enable you to monitor your energy consumption.

“It might sound a little overwhelming at first because these products bring way more performance than most people can imagine coming from a standard thermostat,” DePetris said. “But these thermostats are really user friendly. Plus, customers can always talk with our energy counselors if they have questions.”

How to qualify

To qualify for the program, you must be a Clark Public Utilities electric customer living in a single family or manufactured home. Your home heating system must be an electric furnace or an air-source heat pump.

Homes with ductless heat pumps or gas heat don’t qualify. Customers can’t make more than 200 percent of the federal poverty line — that means earning no more than $2,023 for one person and up to $7,063 for a family of eight, per month.

The utility is actively seeking customers who qualify for the program. You might have already received a postcard in the mail. If you have, contact the contractor listed on the card to schedule your installation. If you think you qualify, but haven’t received a notice in the mail, it’s easy to quickly check eligibility at Paper application forms are also available. Language interpreters are offered for those who need them.

If you don’t qualify, the utility offers a $50 rebate you may qualify for if you purchase a thermostat on your own. If your home is heated with a natural gas furnace you may qualify for a rebate from the Energy Trust of Oregon.

“These thermostats really take the work out of cutting back on your home energy consumption,” DePetris said. “If customers qualify to get one, they should. They’re absolutely worth the effort.”

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.