How prevalent is Utility Companies usage of thermostats that they can control via WIFI?

I'm seeing all kinds of stories and comments online about how the electric company in Texas is controlling some people's AC via their Nest thermostats. Apparantly these users agreed to allow this at some point because there was a bonus or cheaper rate applied. Now the utility company is controlling the temperature in their home because of the energy crisis in that state.


Is this common practice? It certainly doesn't make me want this type of thermostat in mny home. What do you think?

  Topic Home Improvement Subtopic Heating and A/C Tags utility electric ac air conditioning thermostat
3 Months 2 Answers 354 views

Shawn Tylka

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Answers ( 2 )

  1. Jeffrey Ferreri 1155 Community Answer

    This has been going on in Texas for eight years and EnergyHub works with 50 utility companies across the US with over half a million people enrolled in similar programs. With the US and other countries now starting the switch over to smart grids for electrical production, a utility company will need to be able to sporadically turn off appliances that are excessively demanding when they run continuously. These are voluntary programs that save consumers money on their rates, although some enroll customers in a sweepstakes to win s $5,000 prize.

    You don't have to have a smart thermostat to be affected, power companies can and do use controlled brownouts and rolling blackouts at will in order to try to prevent grid failure, and you don't get a cheaper rate. Various electrical devices can be damaged during the power surge after a black out when power is restored. Your lights will still work in a brownout, especially now that LED bulbs are the norm, and very small AC sometimes work but many will burn out their motors if you try to run them on reduced voltage. Consumer Reports has tested various units for their ability to run under brownout voltage and to remain undammaged after blackouts. When the electrical grid actually fails, people lose power entirely, perhaps for days at a time.

    This is inevitable and may become unavoidable over time. The idea of interruptible power supply is not new. In Michigan during the 1980s then again in 2001, the electric company offered consumers the chance to have an interruptible power line for their air conditioning unit in exchange for paying a lower rate for electricity. My family took advantage of this. During peak power usage, the utility would shut off power to those boxes for up to half an hour out of an hour on occasion to prevent brownouts and blackouts. They would shut off some boxes for a while, then turn them off and shut off others. Today, internet enabled appliances eliminate the need for installing separate power lines.

    Smart grids require flexible power production. Base load power plants are being phased out for load following (aka peaking) power plants. Base load power plants take longer to get up to full production but run more efficiently over long periods of time, thus more cheaply. They rely on methods that cause significant damage to the environment including the people living near them. Regulations are making it difficult to build new coal plants while nuclear power suffers from the public NIMBY problem - Not In My Back Yard.

    Load following (peaking) plants can spin up and down quickly but run at a greater cost. In addition, solar and wind power production only occurs when the environment allows. Think of a base load plant as a freight train that takes a while to get up to speed but then barrels along and a load following plant as a delivery van.

    Until much less expensive high capacity electrical storage technologies become widely available, the grid will need flexible power production and ways to reduce the load during peak demand times.

    UTC 2021-06-25 01:08 AM 0 Comments
  2. Accidental duplicate, please delete.

    UTC 2021-06-25 01:08 AM 0 Comments

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