Smart thermostats cranked up remotely by Texas energy firms

I’m… not entirely sure how I feel about this (well, besides ‘like hell I’ll ever own a smart thermostat’ and ‘PG&E/ERCOT level failures coming to a grid near you.’, but those are just everyday default feelings for me…)

The article doesn’t give a whole lot to go on, and neither do a couple others I searched for. Apparently the program was ‘op-in’, but that doesn’t define if it was really a sensible opt-in or ‘buried in iTunes TOS agreement’ opt-in.

I’m kinda looking for an opinion on either the ethics of this and/or what level of technical help does this sort of load shedding provide for a strained power grid. There’s just not enough for me to go on strictly from the article.

Regardless, the takeaway for me is that somebody else holds the capability to dial-in to a smart thermostat at any time. Yeah… enjoy that.

Idaho power has had an “AC cool credit” program that has come and gone over the years. It’s currently $5/month credit: A/C Cool Credit - Idaho Power

Afaik it has always been opt-in in the sense of you fill out an “application” and if selected they send someone out to install a switch on your AC’s compressor. IIRC there is a light that turns on during a reduction event. I participated at the old house but haven’t at the new house. No smart thermostat required as the switch had a radio receiver.

There are rules about how long and how often they activate it, but an emergency changes that.

One can opt out one day each month by calling the day before.

I’d heard of the programs where they just shut the AC off on some sort of rotating schedule. Certainly just turning the thermostat up a bit seems much more gentle than turning stuff off.

From the way some are complaining about it I guess it’s not clear how many knew that’s what they were opting in to. Still that’s kind of on them if they didn’t know what they were signing up for.

Now I do realize this is Texas summer and I live in a land of ‘it’s a dry heat’, but some folks seemed to be just incensed that their houses got to 78 degrees. I cooled the house with just the swamp cooler yesterday and it was never lower than 78 degrees inside from about 1pm to sunset. And it felt great after turning wrenches outside all afternoon.

Plus it’s a lot nicer on your sinuses since it helps humidify the air! Love evaporative cooling, where it’s usable.

Even so though, 78 is NOT that bad, as long as it’s steady and you aren’t excessively humid or also standing in the sun or something.

While I’m generally of the “You should know what you’re signing up for…” persuasion, the Texas power grid seems to have a lot of people who have literally no idea what they’ve signed up for.

Griddy would be awesome to me. I’m also happy to agree that if I want something that badly, it should probably have constraints like “accredited investors” or such, because it probably shouldn’t be available to the general public…

But I don’t know how much of it was “Save $X/mo, sign up here!” sort of advertising/sign up stuff vs actual disclosure.

I’d wager that most of these people got “free” smart thermostats from their utility and never bothered to ask why a for-profit company would be giving them “free” stuff.

I live in South Texas and grew up in Florida. The humidity here is not that bad. Houstonians might have an argument, but there is no comparison with Florida where 78F is oppressive. I spent an hour or two last week in the yard in late afternoon, and it just wasn’t that bad in the shade.

Anyone whining about the temperatures would have been running the AC going into the “crisis”, leaving the interior of their house with a low RH. It would not have risen materially over the course of a few hours. Thermal mass also helps. I voluntarily set my dumb thermostat to 78F, but we never got there.

Our Nest / Power company has an opt-in where you could let the power company do demand response and they send you 25 bucks a season. Basically if they expect a event the thermostat start cooling the house earlier and you get by the peak via thermal mass, then your system turns back on.

Info at

Fine by me, we opted in.

We had the system on the compressor at our old house. It makes a lot of sense to me. If you simply have two channels, one on, one off, they’re effectively doubling their capacity. The power company gave us $30/year for participating, it was only cycled for 15 minutes at a time, and importantly it continued to run the fan even while the compressor was disabled. For the few years that we had it the only way I noticed was because I could hear the compressor blower stop, but the house fan was still running. I thought it was great because we saved a little money and my wife didn’t notice. I probably would have triggered a little more if I had the choice.

As far as smart thermostat’s go, I plan to just go with an option that’s only accessible on the local network/vpn.