Texas homes heat up as power companies remotely adjust smart thermostats

Some Texans have been shocked to find their smart thermostats were raised remotely by power companies. Some said they didn’t know their thermostats were being accessed remotely by a third-party until it was almost 80 degrees inside their homes.

Texas homes heat up as power companies remotely adjust smart thermostats

Matt Dougherty for WFFA:

When Deer Park resident Brandon English got home from work on Wednesday, his house was hot.

“(My wife) had it cranked it down at 2:30,” English said. “It takes a long time for this house to get cool when it gets that hot.”

English’s wife and their daughters decided to take their afternoon nap earlier in the day.

“They’d been asleep long enough that the house had already gotten to 78 degrees,” English said. “So they woke up sweating.”

Without anyone touching it, they said their thermostat was changed while they were sleeping, making their home unbearably hot.

“Was my daughter at the point of overheating?” English said. “She’s 3 months old. They dehydrate very quickly.”

His wife received an alert on her phone soon after that. The family said their thermostat had been changed remotely, raising the temperature of their home during a three-hour “energy saving event.”

The family’s smart thermostat was installed a few years ago as part of a new home security package. Many smart thermostats can be enrolled in a program called “Smart Savers Texas.” It’s operated by a company called EnergyHub.

The agreement states that in exchange for an entry into sweepstakes, electric customers allow them to control their thermostats during periods of high energy demand. EnergyHub’s list of its clients include TXU Energy, CenterPoint and ERCOT.

MacDailyNews Take: Programs like these that allow third-party remote control of smart thermostats are reportedly running in several U.S. states. Here we have yet another example of “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Read the fine print.

63 Comments

    1. If there is a nutty scheme for energy regulation, I guarantee you it is being tried somewhere in California. I had one of those weird no brand thermostats that kept raising the temp to 78 degrees all by itself also. I finally replaced it with an Apple Home compatible unit.

        1. From the article you cited from a petroleum industry lobby group, “In the years before the deadly February storm that left millions in the dark … the wind and solar sectors collected about $21.7 billion in local, state, and federal subsidies and incentives.”

          A UT study, released in 2018, found that the state of Texas’s direct subsidies for fossil fuels far exceed those for renewables. For 2020, UT projected those subsidies as roughly $1.8 billion for oil and gas ($170 per household), $1 billion for wind ($104), and a comparatively small $19 million ($2) for solar.

          While receiving those subsidies, the electrical generation industry ignored clear warnings from the federal and state governments, and the facts on the ground, that a continued failure to winterize their facilities would inevitably lead to a disaster, as it did.

          1. You left out the fact that wind and solar are intermittent energy sources and hence, “shit” sources of energy and these shit energy sources played a role in the grid almost crashing.

            1. I left it out because it isn’t a fact. It is a myth spread by the fossil-fuel industry to preserve their market share. During the freeze, the share of total generation from renewable sources was actually greater than expected. The shortfall was overwhelmingly due to the failure to winterize natural gas sources, thermal power plants, distribution facilities, and even the South Texas Nuclear plant.

              If you distribute wind generation units over an area the size of Texas, wind power is not intermittent. The wind is always blowing somewhere. The construction cost for a wind farm is not a lot higher than for a same-size thermal plant, the maintenance costs are no higher, and the fuel cost is zero. Renewable makes good business sense even if you ignore the environmental costs of burning our finite supply of fossil fuels.

              Yes, until we have cost-effective power storage for areas without hydropower we will need to keep non-renewable generation capacity available in reserve to fill gaps and meet demand peaks, but those plants aren’t consuming any fuel unless they are fired up. Every megawatt generated by renewables is one less megawatt that has to be generated by expensively burning something. That is only “shit” to an energy-company shill.

    1. “Who saw this coming?” Anybody who bothered to read the contract they signed that traded lower electric rates for mandatory conservation. This has been common for years among industrial users, but is fairly new in consumer contracts. When you deregulate public utilities, you are providing people with choices, some of which they may regret later.

      The extreme here in Texas were contracts that directly tied the rate a household paid to the spot price of wholesale electricity at the time of consumption. Almost all of the time, that translated into major savings. During the freeze this year, it meant that households that expected a $150 bill got a $90,000 bill (not even taking into consideration the higher consumption due to the temperature). Those contracts are now, wisely, prohibited.

      1. You’re such a smug liberal jackass. Like all liberals, you endlessly need to virtue signal your opinions and values but are a completely different dickwad behind closed doors aren’t you? Don’t bother replying cause no one fucking cares. Go die in a fire.

  1. Kind of related…my Google Nest has NOT been given access to any power company and it’s not connected to my wifi, but periodically I’m notified the date and time are incorrect.

    I must have one aware machine, or…?

  2. Nothing nefarious here. These programs are completely voluntary, and you have to sign up for them and accept the terms to receive the utility incentives. Clueless crybabies do not deserve press coverage.

    1. Exactly. I find it amazing that anybody thinks that these users should be able to “opt out” of the conservation measures they agreed to and still receive the same low electric rates. I do not want to subsidize their utility bills while facing the risk of rolling blackouts that excessive air conditioning use is currently creating for me and other Texas electric consumers.

        1. Your point is? A few weeks ago, there were long lines and gasoline shortages due to excessive gas car fueling. When there is a shortage of any commodity, be it electricity, gasoline, or toilet paper, people’s first reaction is to hoard the resource. Globally, electric cars use a lot less power (around 10 terawatt-hours) than data centers (205 terawatt-hours), but nobody seems to be suggesting that we need to give up the Internet to avoid blackouts.

  3. Whether its nefarious or not, to many people do not pay attention they are giving remote control of the “IOT” items they install.

    So in this case, its really not cool (some pun intended) to warm up a home owners home without notification no matter the reason, and they should start giving people notifications, and the option to easily override those settings or opt out completely, because their can be children or elderly that can be adversely affected by these unexpected temperature changes.

    The other option is to install a new thermostat that provides them similar features from a company that won’t remotely change its settings.

  4. Seems like a small price to pay in order to save the planet. People will always choose poorly when they are allowed to choose for themselves. They will choose their own selfish, ignorant interests and take advantage of people of color instead of following the experts and choosing for the good of the community instead. That’s why we need strong leadership to guide folks into practicing the proper behaviors. Why shouldn’t thermostats be controlled centrally if it will save the planet and fight white supremacy? It’s what they do in China, and China is going to take over the world with their expert centralized decision making.

    Isn’t that the progressive argument?

    By all means, set up your smart homes. Connect all your tools to the internet for a better world.

    1. Isn’t that the progressing argument? No, it’s paranoia, possibly caused by excessive oxycontin use while waiting for politicians to deliver on their promises to bring back the smokestack industries.

      1. “No, it’s paranoia, possibly caused by excessive oxycontin use while waiting for politicians to bla bla bla…”

        Well TxUseless, before you seemed confused. Now it seems that you are exhibiting projection. Tell me more.

      2. OK. That’s informative.

        So, climate change and white supremacy are the two greatest threats to national security today. That’s been established.

        What disciplinary tools would you use to correct people who refuse to take proper action to save the planet and restore climate justice to people of color? What would you do with people who just won’t do the right thing?

        After all, Americans have no god given right to refrigerate their homes to 72 degrees.

        Central control of things like thermostats, and the like, would be reasonable, don’t you think?

        1. Right, we’re getting to the point where having AC is a sign of pure elitism…let alone “refrigerating” to 72 degrees. I’m thinking about selling my house and living atop a hill where I can get a cooling breeze during the summer.

          Speaking of “no god given right,” it pertains to a lot of things…like eating meat. All the methane produced…so, maybe there should be centralized control with dietary matters? Nix red-meat fore sure and because chickens are people too, and categorized as “white meat,” it should ring alarm bells for obvious reasons.

          Per “disciplinary tools,” the shaming and guilting needs to continue. To continue in strength and proper discipline, I think a Board or Bureau of really wise people needs to be installed…especially those that side with removing individual rights, including so called, “private property.” It’s so elite and leads to a lot of hubris and non-collective thinking.

          For those that don’t do the “right thing?” Punishment they can really feel and maybe banishment, if they don’t learn? I’d say China, in its current practice is a little too mild. China, with Mao, as leader, maybe a good framework to look at? He was pretty good at the centralized control thing.

          1. “so, maybe there should be centralized control with dietary matters? Nix red-meat fore sure and because chickens are people too, and categorized as “white meat,” it should ring alarm bells for obvious reasons.”

            Haven’t you heard the experiment from the 1870’s, a French biologist recorded the sounds of plants screaming as they were “harvested”? Asparagus if I remember correctly.

        2. Wise Guy, nobody—literally not one single solitary person in America— is calling for legally mandated central control of thermostats and the like. If you think there are, you must be on drugs, too.

          What this is about is a free market that offers people financial inducements to practice conservation and ease the load on the electrical network. Because that saves the utility companies money, they are willing to share some of their savings.

          Nobody is forcing anybody to accept those inducements. If you want to reject them and turn your thermostat down to 68, nobody is going to stop you before the network crashes and your air conditioning stops working entirely.

          However, if you do accept the inducements and receive a signup bonus or lower rates, you have voluntarily given up your legal rights to turn down the thermostat and still keep the money. That isn’t a socialist notion. It is Capitalism 101.

          1. It’s capitalism until it isn’t because some jackass Dem mayor or governor decides it’s such a fantastic idea to make it mandatory. That’s how freedoms erode. Bit by bit down a slippery slope. But you’d never understand that would you cuckboy?

        3. “So, climate change and white supremacy are the two greatest threats to national security today. That’s been established.”

          Do you know the meaning of “bull shit”?

      3. “waiting for politicians to deliver on their promises to bring back the smokestack industries.”

        TxUseless defender of the woke world, cite links and quotes from politicians engaged in bringing back smokestack industries and in what form?

        You do know smokestack industries have scrubbers and are greener than ever?…

        1. President Trump “came to Youngstown in 2017 for one of his rallies and promised an economic renaissance in the area, urging Youngstown residents to stick around, the jobs were all coming back. The exact opposite happened.”

          https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/lordstown-auto-plant-trump-broken-promises-1073686/

          “We’re going to get those miners back to work,” Trump said at a West Virginia campaign rally in May 2016. “The miners of West Virginia and Pennsylvania, which was so great to me last week, Ohio and all over are going to start to work again, believe me. They are going to be proud again to be miners.”

          https://www.dispatch.com/story/news/environment/2020/10/20/trump-promised-bring-back-coal-appalachia-has-he/5866420002/

          I could go on, but you wouldn’t believe the hundreds of other articles I found in a two-minute search, either.

          1. Yes, President Trump made campaign promises to work toward bringing jobs back and this Rolling Stone UBER LIBERAL HIT PIECE has no credibility. Carefully crafted cherry picking, wording and conflation only you would post along with Leftist Mother Jones pieces nonsense in the past .

            “In Youngstown, In April 2018, GM cut the second shift. Shortly after the midterm elections, GM delivered the death sentence: The plant would close for good in the spring of 2019.”

            GM shutdown the plant, NOT President Trump or his policies!

            Trump had the lowest employment rate IN 50 YEARS. The highest employment rate for Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and women in HISTORY.

            Brainless Leftists lap up this partisan baloney every time and you are Exhibit A…

            1. I did not say that Trump shut the plant. Nobody said that. I said that he promised not only that the plant would not close, but that those who were already unemployed in Youngstown should not move because their jobs were coming back. There are no new manufacturing jobs in Youngstown. There are, in fact, 4500 jobs less. The people who believed the President ended up sitting around waiting for jobs that never came while other opportunities passed them by.

              You asked for cases where politicians promised to bring back smokestack industry jobs. I did.

        2. Have fun finding/buying the electric/green car w/o “smokestack industries” AND driving on the oil dependent roads and bridges.

          One can be like The Northface that scorned the oil industry, when 90%+ of their products are dependent on the material. No hypocrisy…no blindness–just peace– ‘cuz we mean well.

    2. Yeah, I’m looking for some leader that knows best, because I have no idea. Someone in the govt, preferably, because they’ve proven to provide the simple minds the best options.

      Or, someone who’s respected in business and science that thinks Doge Coin is the way to go?

      Besides my thermostat, maybe someone to control the gas pedal in my car (shame on be…I haven’t converted yet). Similarly, I have no idea why I’m free to flush my toilet every time I leave a gift?

      Or, yes…China. They are pretty experienced with centralized control…I will just have to adjust with the constant “observation” and losing some freedom. But as you say, when left to my own choices, I often F it up. For instance, I just had a Butterfinger–when I could have/should have had a kale smoothie. Where’s China when you need ’em.

      I can’t even think about white supremacy right now. They may require going to a “camp” for a few months and that’s too much to think about right now…as I’m still recovering from the Pandemic Lockdown.

      1. Who knew there were so many drugs being consumed? Big Pharma needs to shift production to anti-psychotic meds with so much delusive thinking afoot.

      1. The “fact” that a /s is needed is a sign of the times…so many people behold the govt as comfie blanket and for their ballast.

        It ain’t a good sign.

    3. “That’s why we need strong leadership to guide folks into practicing the proper behaviors.”

      There is no climate crisis and the claims that climate change have caused bad weather events are mostly lies and/or hugh exaggerations.

      If you look at who is behind the green cult movement, it is mainly rich people and foundations: Rockefeller, Steyer, Soros, Gates, Bloomberg, the Ford foundation, blackstone, and many others. These are the groups/people who want us to change OUR behaviors while they go on about flying in private jets, taking yachts, and buying hugh homes and many of them. Low info people for some reason, can’t see the connection between the wealthy and climate change ‘solutions’.

      Do you think they’ll be living next door to us in UN designed megacities, or riding bikes / taking mass transit along side us?

      C’mon man! Think!!!!!

      QUESTION AUTHORITY

  5. I currently have a Google Nest Thermostat. Two things. It has shown me I need a new unit as my older one is not very efficient. What does everyone else use? I would like to purchase one that has the same features, or more as my Nest unit, but that works with Apple Home kit. Thanks for the responses in advance.

      1. Here in San Antonio, my Ecobee is enrolled in CPS Energy’s incentive program, Eco+.

        My total electric, ninety-year-old rehab farmhouse remains comfortable year round. CPS has my permission to dither with my preferred settings by +/- 2° F.

        My highest utility bill was $80 during during the Big Freeze. During summer heat, it’s less than $60 monthly. Oh, and during the freeze Eco+ conservation helped keep the power on.

        Am I thrilled to make slight concessions for big savings? You betcha.

  6. The entire Iraq war was an oil subsidy. 4588 Americans dead for a nation that would be as irrelevant as Gabon if we could just stop giving them our money for oil. American green energy will save lives, not just land and money.

  7. It’s not just giving “our money for oil,” it relates to the World’s financial system…not wanting to rock the petro-dollar. It’s a crappy system, but I can guarantee, if/when it fails, it’s not going to be a great time for anyone.

    Green energy is a worthy pursuit, but it’s not even close to replacing the current system when it comes to the manufacturing steel and concrete and such industrial processes have huge energy demands and use percentages.

  8. We have an Ecobee thermostat as part of our HomeKit apartment (20+ devices). A year or so ago I signed up through our electric provider & ecobee to grant them permission to take control. We receive $50/year.

    We’ve had several peak events this year, but they notify us the day before. They do a pre-cool an hour prior. The peak has ranged from 78°-80°, but our usual peak setting is 77° so it’s not a big difference.

    1. The notion that there are Dark Forces at work plotting to secretly tamper with Real Americans’ thermostats without their consent as part of a Radical Liberal Socialist Communist Take-Your-Pick plot to take away our cars and hamburgers and impose a Green Red Rainbow Black Take-Your-Pick New Deal on Honest Hard Working Patriots who have a GOD-GIVEN RIGHT to run their air conditioning full blast during a power shortage despite having voluntarily signed a contract agreeing to manage their electricity usage in exchange for a financial benefit that they gladly pocketed.

      1. Hello TxUser!

        I simply asked what you would be willing to do to prevent people from making poor choices regarding our two most important national security challenges: climate change and white supremacy.

        You never answered the question. Instead you went off on some weird trip about oxycontin. Which is ok, I guess if that’s what you’re in to.

        Our national security is at stake. Climate change harms people of color the most. We are facing an emergency and are entering a crisis. I merely posited that centrally controlling folks thermostats would seem to be a reasonable action to take for climate and social justice.

        Are you an ally? Only a white supremacist could continue to allow actions that foster climate change.

        Would you be willing to endorse the central control of thermostats for social and climate justice? That’s all.

        I’m not saying there is a conspiracy. I only wonder if you are willing to take action.

        1. Your comment wasn’t the major problem, Wise Guy. It was the comments around it that made it look, in that context, like imposing thermostat controls was part of a liberal plot to force a particularly draconian Green New Deal on an unwitting public.

          I agree we might want to explore market-based incentives to address carbon emissions, but that’s not what these existing programs are for. They seek to manage excess electrical consumption so that the generating companies can save money by building less new capacity. Simple supply-demand capitalist economics without a socialist in sight.

          1. “It was the comments around it that made it look, in that context, like imposing thermostat controls was part of a liberal plot to force a particularly draconian Green New Deal on an unwitting public.”

            From news.com.au:

            Household power switched off by remote

            By Linda Simalis
            From: Sunday Herald Sun August 14, 2011 12:00AM

            -Review into managing home power use
            -Looking at ways to ease demand at peak times
            -Could switch off your appliances remotely

            “TVs, airconditioners and fridges could be switched off remotely by power companies during peak times under plans to rein in households’ demand for electricity.”

            This is EXACTLY what the cult of rich control freaks, elites, and socialists wants.

            1. Again, these are voluntary opt-in programs. People who want to pay a premium for expensive all-you-can-eat power can do that. People who are willing to endure some inconvenience for much lower utility bills can do that, too. Either way, the utility companies make money from higher billing or lower generation costs. Aren’t free markets and consumer choice a marvelous thing?

      2. The fact there are forces–I’ll call them dark–advocating policies to subvert America, it’s not stretch to think ANYTHING can happen.

        CRT and all of the subversion within is just one current example. How information was presented, shielded and shifted and disguised as it flowed–and still “flows”– from the CDC, WHO and FB, is another example that gives reason to question ANYTHING proceeding from On-High-Central.

        Let me guess, you are like a number of the left denying such idiosyncrasies and, in the case of CRT, even denying its existence, or relevance?

  9. Leave it to some to devolve a thermostat article into “dumb conservative vs climate change” but sadly, that’s all some have to do in life.

    I had Nest thermostats in my house until we bought a new home last November.
    Decided to leave the Nest behind and use Ecobee. The Nest just seemed to go on their own too much while the Ecobee (even with the energy saving options all used) keeps things better in line.

    I have woken a few times at night to the house being warmer than I wish, mainly due to humidity not temperature. Not a big issue, just hit the thermostat a degree or two down and it holds it for 2 hours before going back to energy savings settings (you can change this as it comes default 4 hours but I prefer 2).

    My gas/electric bills through the February freeze and the May/June monsoon have stayed under budget. On occasion the upstairs needs to be hit for a two hour cool down but again it is only a degree or maybe two (depending on humidity).

    I don’t feel like I’ve given over control to my utility, plus I can opt out anytime. There is a slider scale used for savings and since mine is not maxed out maybe is why I don’t have huge temperature swings.

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