It's not even summer yet but the heat is already here and it's going to get much worse. If you've got an air conditioner, you'll probably be running it a lot, but if you've got a smart thermostat controlling the temperature in your home, you might find yourself not as cooled off as you'd like to be, and it's your smart thermostat that's to blame.
Since the devices are connected to the internet, homeowners can control them remotely, but it turns out it's not just the homeowners controlling them that way. Some smart thermostat owners have noticed that when they try to lower their thermostat's set temperature to cool off a room, after a short while, the thermostat's temperature settings go up again. The reason: The power company is remotely altering the controls.
It is totally legal and usually done when high power usage threatens the grid, as a way for the power companies to prevent brownouts. That's just what happened during that big heat wave last year in Texas. Families there reported turning on the air conditioner before going to sleep, only to wake up soon after sweating because their smart thermostat was turned up remotely by the power company.
How can this happen? Well those families in Texas had signed up for a program called "Smart Savers Texas" that offered them a chance to win up to $5,000 off their energy bills, but they missed the fine print, which states that by enrolling they give the power company permission to mess with their thermostats during high-demand periods.
Similar programs exist all over the country, many of them offering incentives, but not all of them make it clear that joining means giving up control of your thermostat at times. Tech companies that make the thermostats are in full cooperation with the power companies. Google's Nest, Vivint, Lux, Alarm.com, Radio Thermostat, Sensi and ecobee all work with a company called Energy Hub, which runs the Smart Savers Texas program. Sometimes the tech companies are even the ones offering these programs. Google's Nest has a "Rush Hour Rewards" program where if you sign up you'll get a gift card. The amount of the card varies depending on where you live, but what stays the same is that the program lets power companies alter your temp.
If you start to notice strange things happening with your thermostat, you might have inadvertently signed up for a program that allows the power company to adjust your settings. Give them a call to check if that's the case and, if you are ever in doubt or see weird things going on with your thermostat, you can always just take it off of your wifi temporarily.