Those programmable thermostats you see in your local hardware store can do more than control the heat and air-conditioning in your home. They can now save you some money.

Southern California Edison (SCE) is leading a study with various programmable communicating thermostat technology companies like Alarm.com and EnergyHub. The utility is combining its energy-saving bill credit program (Save Power Days) with this easy-to-use technology to help manage one of the largest portions of an average home’s energy consumption — heating and cooling.

On any weekday when electricity demand is relatively high, SCE can call a Save Power Days “event” between 2 to 6 p.m. asking customers to conserve electricity. During the most recent event, 81 percent of enrolled SCE customers saved money.

All SCE customers are already automatically enrolled in Save Power Days and can earn up to $0.75 for every kilowatt hour reduced during the event (based on the customer’s average weekday usage from 2-6 p.m.). SCE customers who own a programmable thermostat can earn an additional $0.50, or $1.25, for every kilowatt hour saved through Save Power Days Plus.

“The programmable thermostats in this study are automatically adjusted by the participating companies in response to an event notice by SCE,” said Joe Jankosky, manager of strategic alliances and partnerships for SCE. “When SCE does call an event, these devices consider your comfort preferences while saving energy. You can set it and forget it.”

Other programmable thermostat companies participating in the study (using EnergyHub’s technology) include Nexia Home Intelligence, Radio Thermostat and Filtrete, and Vivint.

The study also highlights the importance of having a standard event notification platform (referred to as open automated demand response) which allows SCE and the programmable thermostat service providers to communicate automatically. Ultimately, this technology allows the utility to communicate to a customer’s device that a Save Power Days is taking place.

This communication will allow the device to adjust the customer’s heating or cooling pattern to save energy and money during a Save Power Days event. The cycle is completed when the customer’s smart meter measures the energy savings during an event providing SCE with accurate data to credit the customers’ account.

Although only one Save Power Days has been called this summer, the results of the pilot study are encouraging.

“We have a single data point to look at, and these are just preliminary results, but they’re very promising”, said Jankosky. “Eighty one percent of SCE customers enrolled in the study were able to save energy during the last Save Power Days. The average savings during the 2 to 6 p.m. time frame was about 6.7 kilowatts per household, about 1.7 kilowatts per hour.”

Jankosky added that the company will need several more events to truly gauge the effectiveness of the study, including longer term opportunities. These numbers are preliminary pending SCE’s load impact study at the conclusion of the pilot program.

Either way, that’s a credit of about $8.50 for the average programmable thermostat customer during the last Save Powers Days.