Hands Off My Thermostat!

Hands Off My Thermostat!

Hands Off My Thermostat!

Home thermostats, specifically the smart home thermostat, should come with a warning label. It seems, if a homeowner signs up for certain energy saving programs, the fine print gives the energy company the right to go in remotely and change your home temperature without your say so!

During the dog days of summer, it’s important to keep your home cool. But when thousands of Xcel customers in Colorado tried adjusting their thermostats Tuesday, they learned they had no control over the temperatures in their own homes.

Temperatures climbed into the 90s Tuesday, which is why Tony Talarico tried to crank up the air conditioning in his partner’s Arvada home.

“I mean, it was 90 out, and it was right during the peak period,” Talarico said. “It was hot.”

That’s when he saw a message on the thermostat stating the temperature was locked due to an “energy emergency.”

Yes folks, you read that correctly. Out here in Colorado, Xcel Energy decided the best way to conserve energy was to lock 22,000 customers out of their thermostats. Temperatures of 90+ degrees, something we see here in Colorado EVERY SINGLE SUMMER, was enough for Xcel to arbitrarily lock customers out of their thermostats and set the temps to 78 degrees. 

The fine print evidently gives Xcel control when the company deems it necessary. Evidently, not planning ahead to have backup systems (Texas ice storm anyone?) when one goes offline, gives the company the “authority”  to change the temperatures in your own home. 

“We understand the need to keep cool on hot summer days and work hard to provide our customers with the energy they rely on,” Xcel said in a statement provided to 9NEWS. “Our customers have a choice to participate in this voluntary program that helps them manage energy demands while receiving cash for their involvement.”

Xcel says on its website that “control events” – when Xcel makes adjustments to the thermostats of participating customers – can happen at anytime during the summer.

Customers can opt out of control events at any time, though on rare occasions, system emergencies can trigger an event that can’t be overridden. Tuesday was one of those times when participating customers could not opt-out, Xcel said.

Here’s the problem with this. The customers received zero notification that this was going to happen. It’s supposedly a smart home system, so therefore a text can be sent to those customers letting them know this would take place. There’s been no evidence that that happened at all. 

About those fabulous subsidies. Xcel pays customers who sign up a mere $100, and then $25 annually. Big Whoop! Lots of savings there. 

Yes, this is one of the downsides of the Green New Deal push. Signing up for smart energy programs can come with hidden costs to the homeowner. And the grid for that matter. As Colorado media reported, many of those homes locked out of their thermostats saw the temperatures climb to nearly 90 degrees. 

Something to consider here. It takes a great deal of energy to bring temperatures down or raise them up. It takes less energy to keep temperatures consistent. 

That said, what Colorado homeowners experienced is somewhat similar to what is going on in California. Fresh off of Gavin Newsom’s much-hyped push to ban all gas cars and switch to EV’s (electric vehicles) by 2035, California energy companies issued a warning. 

Wait a minute. You mean to tell me that California’s electric grid can’t handle the current number of electric vehicle charging stations now? What does that mean for California’s home thermostats? Oh wait, they wanted users to conserve energy in their own homes as well. At least they didn’t lock people out of their own thermostats…YET. 

Europe is facing quite the energy crisis for this winter. Coal plants were shuttered and nuclear plants were going offline. Then, the entire Russia/Ukraine mess blew up. Now, Russia has shut down the Nord Stream pipeline, indefinitely. Suddenly Germany is running back to nuclear energy to power the country. 

Unexpectedly, the Green New Deal isn’t looking so spiffy now is it?

Colorado customers were locked out of their own home systems last week. This week, the temps are again in the high 90’s. Will Xcel lock their customers out again? It could happen. And Xcel’s response will be just as condescending as it was last week. 

Exit question: If any of those customers choose to opt-out of this fabulous energy “saving” program, will Xcel let them, or will they  be charged? 

This is the expensive, costly future of the Green New Deal that is waiting for us. Our home is our castle, unless the energy company arbitrarily decides otherwise.

Feature Photo Credit: Smart home thermostat, via Ecobee, cropped and modified

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  • George V says:

    I have zero you-know-whats to give for these folks in Colorado. But then I’m old, but now I’ll take a break from telling people to get off my lawn to rant about this.

    It was 25 to 30 years ago that we signed up for a program to get a break on the rate we paid to run our A/C compressor. The power company usng a separate radio-euipped meter, could turn off the compressors, rolling the outage across the area leaving the compressors off for up to 20 minutes or so during peak times. It saved money in the long run and we never like, died or anything. We also actually read the documentation when we signed up so we knew we might get, actually, a bit warm at times.

    I’ve also lived in a variety of states and a variety of homes over the years, some of which had no A/C or the A/C could not keep up with the heat. Once my area was hit by a 4 month drought 35 years ago and temps remained in the mid-90s or even 100’s for several weeks with lows in the 70’s we survived in a home with no A/C at all. A few years before that in another home, also with no A/C, when my wife was expecting, we went through several weeks of 90+ weather. Heck, back then our cars didn’t have A/C either… and you had to wear a suit to work.. and go there every day. The horror!!!!

    To those in Colorado on this program to save them money: Suck it up. Be strong men, women, and xer/xis/xhems just like your grandparents. Just because you’ve never lived through heat waves doesn’t mean they never ever happened before.

    Rant off. Carry on with normal duties as assigned.

    • GWB says:

      My wife spent three months of her pregnancy with our son in the basement of our eastern Washington home because we had no a/c.
      We did have a/c after I got home from that deployment….

      I also worked in our garden and did other outdoor chores the summer we had 13+ days of 113+ degrees heat in a row. And there was actual humidity involved there.

    • Micha Elyi says:

      Here, here George V. You tell ’em. Those young ‘uns gotta learn to read before signing.

      I have no sympathy for the Colorado whiners who are incompetent at being adults. None. At. All.

  • Lewis says:

    LARGE PRINT GIVETH…….small print taketh away!

  • Christopher says:

    The print is not so fine. If you think you’re getting a discount or anything else for free, I have a bridge for sale. Does it suck? Yes. Is it working as intended? Also yes.

  • GWB says:

    the fine print
    Actually, it’s not very fine, at all. It’s right up front in all the programs I’ve seen. It’s not so much hidden as it is ignored. Much like privacy issues with phones and such – it takes not reading the rules at all to miss it.

    they had no control over the temperatures in their own homes
    Not true. They had no ability to make it cooler in their homes below a certain point using their central air/IoT thermostat. They could do lots of things to control the temperatures in their homes – just not using their central air.

    Temperatures climbed into the 90s Tuesday
    ZOMG!!! Not the… 90s! The 90s in Colorado, where the humidity is less than 20%!
    Sorry, but come back to me when it’s 113+ for 13 days straight. What were these people setting their thermostats to – 65? 70?

    set the temps to 78 degrees
    What did they all have them set to prior to the lockout? Because that might tell you who was partly responsible for the “energy emergency”. And, btw, that’s not all that hot. It’s still 12+ degrees below the outside temperature and well below the temperature at which heat injuries should be an issue. It’s a bit uncomfortable to those of us who spend our days in offices and such, but it really isn’t that bad.

    Utility company tricked you/us.
    No, Derek, they did not. It was written in there. The fact you didn’t want to read it is not their issue, it’s yours. But, like so many Americans you just assume that the company couldn’t possibly ever want to do something you don’t like, so you ignore that stuff. And the rest of us get more of it. (I’m betting there is a whole section in the program contract about when they can do exactly what they did, whether or not they have to tell you beforehand, and what recourse you have to dispute anything like this. [Hint: it is likely ‘arbitration’.])

    Legal disclosures should NOT take advantage of people.
    Wait, you just called it a “disclosure” but claim it took advantage of you? I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

    Big Whoop! Lots of savings there.
    And? I see lots of bad deals in the marketplace every day.
    Of course, I also see people taking those deals every day….

    many of those homes locked out of their thermostats saw the temperatures climb to nearly 90 degrees
    They saw inside-the-home temps rise to that level? Or outside, while inside it continued a more pleasant 78F?
    Because if the former, then their lock-out broke the thermostat (at least temporarily) and they should be required to pay compensation for that. If it’s the latter, then go see my initial comments.

    It takes a great deal of energy to bring temperatures down or raise them up.
    Not really. It all depends on whether you’re working against the environment or not. Letting the home temp rise to 78 required no energy whatsoever given the outside temps were 90+. It requires no energy whatsoever to lower the temp in your house when it’s cold outside. And catching the temp as it hits your target takes no more energy than maintaining that temp. The only time your aphorism applies is when Derek tries to turn his thermostat back down to 66 when the “emergency” is over.

    BTW, a fallacy that I have seen from a lot of people: if it gets hotter outside, they lower their thermostat to maintain the same temp inside. If your system works that way, then you should really invest in insulating your home. Because you’re not using a/c correctly if it’s going right out through the walls/windows of your home. Your a/c might have to work more often to get the temp down, but if it’s set at a reasonable temp (a/c air only gets so cold, ever) it should continue to keep the house at the same interior temp, regardless of outside temp. Turning down your thermostat because it’s hotter outside does not do anything except make it colder.

    At least they didn’t lock people out of their own thermostats…YET.
    Yes, expect CA to be the first to mandate it, instead of a nice little incentive.

    Suddenly Germany is running back to nuclear energy to power the country.
    Not really. They’re just not going to let them go when they could be used to stop the peasants from using elites for fuel. The moment they’re far enough from a crisis, they’ll restart the program to shut them down.

    Colorado customers were locked out of their own home systems last week.
    Now, having said all I said about the wussy whining about the temps, this part is a real issue*. At least for those who don’t take orders well (a large, but dwindling, number of Americans). You really shouldn’t give control of your life over to another human once you’re an adult. If you actually read the “fine print” and decide 78F was livable for a time period and was worth whatever incentive you receive, and then decide to participate, fine. You’re being an adult, managing risk and doing cost-benefit analysis. If you just thought “OOh, that will help me pay the next two bills” and clicked the box, then you’re a fool and deserve what you get. And, no, it isn’t up to the energy company to go outside the bounds of what you signed up for to let you know life is coming at you.

    (* Yes, it’s un-cool. But it’s also a very unsympathetic case for the issue at stake here.)

    This isn’t something evil the company is doing. This is something dumb the users are doing because they want a pittance discount and they don’t want to manage their own lives. It’s the same with tech and giving them your information. Or “affinity” programs at stores. Some largish portion of America would give up naming rights to their firstborn for a mess of pottage right now. It’s also much like our country – where the people simply don’t want to be involved. They’d rather have safety and plenty to eat than to take the risks that freedom entails. They’re secure enough financially they can ignore all of the stupid caused by their preferred policies – policies based on the “being nice” and “hedonism” attributes of Progressivism.

  • I see a lot of “Suck it up, buttercup!”

    Well, okay. I keep this Tucson house in the low 80s. BUT I see that camel nose sticking under the edge of the tent, which apparently the commenters here have a problem with.

  • American Human says:

    Wow, temps inched into the 90s? So hot… Give me a break. Besides a simple fix is to remove the “smart” controller and install the old fashioned controller where you move the little dial up or down at your convenience. I saw this coming years ago when the smart controllers started being touted. Sure you can get a deal of sorts but really, are you that hard up for cash in your 3000 square foot home with zoned AC that you’ll go for the carrot like that? Now your getting the stick.
    Think ahead, none of these corporations, energy companies, etc. are your friends. Get a few room ACs for when you get locked out again when it gets up to 91 degrees…so hot….

    They want you to cut back, not them. They want you to eat bugs, not them. They want you to stop using fossil fuels, not them.

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  • Big Balinese Wheel Money says:

    Did they put Taylor Lorenz in charge of the system?

  • Nina Bookout says:

    Lots of interesting commentary about this issue.

    A few key points if you will.

    A. This again goes to the issue of energy companies (Xcel and PG&E in CA) have grid issues that aren’t resolved. Hence transformers or sub-stations going off line w/zero back up and CA now in yet another rolling blackout situation

    B. I grew up on a ranch …that home STILL doesn’t have A/C. We deal with it. Yet, the temps INSIDE the home do get to nearly 90 and higher inside on some days, the last three days are a prime example.

    And yes, even if the fine print does say the company might arbitrarily change the interior temp setting in the home, and folks did miss that part, the issue is that that company has done little to shore up the existing grid and then blames the consumers for what Xcel should’ve been doing.

    Thanks all!

    • GWB says:

      Concur, Nina, about the grid and the uselessness of “green” energy in so many ways.
      But, all the sturm und drang is about the issue of supposed totalitarian control. Well, that and “OMG, do you know how hot it was?!” And both of those rebound back to the consumer.

      An awful lot of our infrastructure has been resting on its laurels since the 70s or 80s – both public and utilities. We need to figure that out, or we’re in for the same end as Rome.

    • Micha Elyi says:

      “…CA now in yet another rolling blackout situation”

      False. So far during the present extraordinary September heat wave in California there have been no rolling blackouts or brownouts.

      “…the (electric utility) company has done little to shore up the existing grid…”

      Take that up with your state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC). They typically expect utility shareholders to eat such expenses, not the customers. Think about that the next time you complain about the rates you pay for electricity, Nina. Then write your polite, handwritten letter to your state’s PUC explaining how eager you are to pay higher rates in return for a more robust grid. Be sure to send a copy to your electricity provider.

      Exit question: Why are the people who most hate California the most ignorant about California?

  • mer says:

    If the electric company can control your thermostat, then anyone that hacks the electric company can control your thermostat.
    Wait until you have a household with a special needs individual that has requirements on temperature or something else and electric company turns it off.
    Thermostats now, what about whole house control? Electric company “so sorry we turned off grandmas oxygen, but your house was drawing too much on the grid”

    • GWB says:

      2022: Oh c’mon, that would never happen.
      2025: OMG! They’re killing my grandma! They shouldn’t hide clauses like that in plain sight in the not-so-fine print!

    • Micha Elyi says:

      Mer, I strongly doubt that the California Public Utilities Commission permits an electric utility to put a customer who already is on the medical necessity reduced rate on a voluntary short-term thermostat control reduced rate as well. But instead of guessing and whining, Mer, you could contact the Cal PUC and ask. Maybe you could prove me wrong. The medical necessity rate is the lowest rate available to non-commercial California electric utility customers.

      Exit question: Why are the people down on California the people ignorant about California?

      • GWB says:

        You pulled a motte-and-bailey. mer didn’t say “someone who is on the medical necessity reduced rate.” They said “someone who needs that electricity on.” There is a difference.

        Why are people so defensive of California so ignorant of what’s being said?

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