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Texas power companies are having a rough year. They dropped the ball earlier this year when a deep freeze threw the Lone Star State into an unprecedented winter emergency. Now, Texas is facing incredible heat, and the power companies are once again struggling to meet demand. To curtail usage, some companies are creeping out customers by remotely controlling how much air conditioning they are allowed to use.
Companies like CPS Energy are causing a stir by using smart thermostats to remotely control the temperature of a customer’s home. Customers report their thermostats are being turned up without their consent. Texas resident Brandon English spoke to Houston TV station KHOU telling the story of how his house was cool when his family went to take a nap but then steaming hot when they woke up. “They’d been asleep long enough that the house had already gotten to 78 degrees,” reports KHOU. “So they woke up sweating.”
Customers may be furious that their electric company can control their comfort, but they likely signed up for this type of intrusion. According to NBC affiliate KPRC, the affected people probably chose to join an incentive program that rewards customers for using a smart thermostat. Hidden in the fine print of these programs are terms that allow the electric company to adjust thermostats during peak energy demand days.
According to Erika Diamond, Vice President of Customer Solutions at EnergyHub, companies rarely tamper with customer’s thermostats. They only need to make these changes a few times per year during the summer. Diamond also confirmed that customers could opt-out of these energy-saving, bill-reducing programs at any time.