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Monday, October 3, 2022
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Texas Energy Companies Can Control Your Thermostat


A digital thermostat shows the temperature at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. | Image by Kenishirotie, Shutterstock

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With the scorching summer heat bearing down on Texans, thousands of locals might have been surprised last week to find their thermostats had inexplicably increased on their own.

TXU Energy confirmed the mysterious increase — spurred by Texas going into energy conservation mode.

“Across Texas, tens of thousands of customers elect to participate in what are known as Demand Response Programs (DRP) that help to reduce the strain on Texas’ grid in extreme weather,” Kyle Week, a TXU spokesperson, told the Star-Telegram.

When the Texas grid is under pressure, ERCOT and Transmission Dependent Utility systems, and other electric providers can call on TXU Energy to adjust the set temperatures on customers’ thermostats, usually for less than an hour. “While customers agree to this upfront as an important conservation tool, they can typically override the demand response event depending on their unique needs,” he said.

Last Wednesday’s sudden thermostat changes were requested by ERCOT, which issued a conservation appeal to all Texans Wednesday, asking homeowners and businesses to reduce their energy usage from 2 to 9 p.m.

Some customers who own so-called smart thermostats have opted for “Smart-Savers” programs by providers like EnergyHub. In most cases, they can typically opt out of participating by manually adjusting their thermostat or changing the temperature using their thermostat’s app.

However, some smart-thermostat users have reported trouble lowering their temperature after the unprompted, remotely-controlled increase. One local said he could not lower the temperature on his Nest thermostat even after the peak demand period between 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. had passed.

According to the Smart Savers terms and conditions, temperature adjustments commonly occur on weekdays from around 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Still, they can extend outside the window for system testing or rare emergency conditions.

“By participating in the program, you agree to allow EnergyHub, Inc. and your thermostat provider to remotely access your thermostat to make brief, limited adjustments to your thermostat temperature setting at times of peak electricity demand in the summer,” the company says.

EnergyHub’s local clients serving the DFW area are Oncor Electric Delivery, the utility company for North Texas, and electricity provider TXU Energy.

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