Some Texas residents who have opted for programs that remotely raise thermostat temperatures during heat waves regretted the move last week.
Power companies in several states are running promotions to sign users up for services that allow them to remotely adjust smart thermostat temperatures by a few degrees when energy demand is high. These programs apparently worked as expected during a heat wave in which the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) requested that thermostats be set to 78 ° F (26 ° C) or higher to reduce consumption. electricity. But some residents who didn’t realize what they signed up for were taken by surprise, local reports said.
Deer Park resident Brandon English said his wife and daughters, including a 3-month-old baby, ‘woke up sweating’ after an afternoon nap in which their thermostat was turned up at a distance of 78 °, according to an article by KHOU on Thursday. English said he deregistered the family’s thermostat from the program after discovering it was operated remotely.
“I wouldn’t want someone else to control my things for me… If someone else can handle this, I’m not for it,” he said, according to KHOU.
Karen Rogers of Galveston also apparently didn’t realize her family had signed up for a remote temperature change program. After the family’s home “got noticeably hot and uncomfortable,” Rogers said she “found an activity log and it was reported that a backup event had been initiated by the service company. public, ”according to KPRC. She said she then withdrew from the program, KPRC wrote.
In addition to making changes remotely due to the heat waves, a power company called CenterPoint Energy said it also performs semi-annual tests that raise the temperature of homes for three hours at a time. CenterPoint said it performed such a test on Wednesday last week, which occurred during a period of very hot days. But the main goal of these programs is to reduce electricity consumption during extreme weather conditions.
Remote changes up to 4 ° F
Rogers was apparently signed up for a service run by a New York-based company called EnergyHub, which contracts with thermostat manufacturers and power companies. The company’s system can remotely change temperatures up to 4 ° F (2.2 ° C), and EnergyHub estimates that in Texas, “there will be two to eight adjustment events from June 1 to September 30, 2021 ”.
“By participating in the program, you agree to allow EnergyHub, Inc. and your thermostat supplier to remotely access your thermostat to make brief and limited adjustments to your thermostat’s temperature setting during peak hours of the day. demand for electricity in summer. You may benefit from seeing a reduced electricity bill, ”says the EnergyHub website. Customers “can unsubscribe from your thermostat, mobile device or web application simply by resetting your thermostat setting to the temperature of your choice.”
EnergyHub works with Nest, Ecobee, and other thermostats, and the company has agreements with about 50 utilities nationwide. “Your utility can pay you to use your smart thermostat to create a smarter electricity grid. Check if a program is available in your area and start earning rewards today, ”says EnergyHub’s“ Enroll My Thermostat ”page.
An EnergyHub deal offers $ 5,000 raffle entries in exchange for signing up, but that’s not the only method of signing up customers.
“Thermostat owners typically receive an offer to participate in the program from their appliance manufacturer or energy supplier through a mobile app or email,” [EnergyHub VP of customer solutions Erika] Diamond said that “each participant actively accepts the terms of the program and can opt out of a demand response event at any time,” according to Business Insider.
Ecobee’s “community energy savings”
Residents in the Houston area complained about remote temperature changes in a Reddit thread. While one person wrote, “It sounds like what happens when you get the thermostat subsidized,” others said it happened to them despite purchasing a smart thermostat on their own. “I have a Nest, bought it myself, didn’t sign up for any type of energy saving program or anything,” one person wrote.
“My Ecobee that I bought from Amazon automatically enrolled us in the Eco + feature set which has a setting called ‘Community Energy Savings’ that we couldn’t turn off,” another wrote. “He would randomly adjust our thermostat based on ERCOT guidelines. It took Ecobee months to unsubscribe from the program. We almost came back to a simple stupid thermostat because it took them so long to fix it. “
The thread included a discussion on whether these users had been automatically enrolled or had signed up themselves without reading the details. The companies that operate these programs say that users must give their consent.
Ecobee is partnering with utilities for its community energy savings program that performs temperature changes remotely. Ecobee states that the process in which a user activates Community Energy Savings includes selecting the user’s utility provider from a list, viewing an offer from the provider, and then clicking “OK” to register.
Community Energy Savings is part of Ecobee’s Eco + program, which includes several other features. “Eco + cannot be completely deactivated once you have signed up for a program. However, you can still turn it off for the day or for the week. Eco + can only be permanently deactivated if you unsubscribe from the program by contacting your utility or their program manager, ”says Ecobee.
Power cos. tell EnergyHub when to change the temperature
EnergyHub performs its thermostat changes remotely at the request of the power companies. “When CenterPoint Energy, or another utility, triggers a reduction event based on high temperatures or high demand, EnergyHub then begins energy reduction through the customers it has enrolled in its program,” said CenterPoint Energy told KPRC last week.
In some cases, this is done as part of a test rather than due to an extreme weather event. CenterPoint Energy said it holds a “test reduction event” twice a year, and the most recent occurred on Wednesday, June 16 from 2 to 5 p.m. local time. CenterPoint Energy said it offers energy efficiency programs through third party service providers because “Texas law prevents us from offering programs directly to residential customers.”
San Antonio-based CPS Energy meanwhile offers a one-time bill credit of $ 85 per thermostat when customers enroll in its program, claiming that ” [d]During peak energy demand days in summer, we may briefly adjust your thermostat settings by a few degrees… You can opt out of participating in a peak demand event by manually adjusting your thermostat or through your app. thermostat.
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