Most of you are probably aware of arrangements like the following, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded occasionally. Always read the fine print!
Tuesday in Denver the temperature rose into the 90s and some 22,000 Xcel Energy customers suddenly found they could not adjust their smart thermostats to stay cool. The power company had taken over and locked them out of their own thermostats!
It was an arrangement the customers had agreed to when they opted into an “AC Rewards Program” that gave them an immediate $100 credit and an annual $25 savings. But few realized that it meant whenever Xcel wanted or needed to, it could lock them out of their thermostats and allow temperatures in their homes to rise into the 80s. Some customers reported in-home temperatures as high as 88 degrees.
Reportedly it was done to offset a power failure in Pueblo, Colo., more than 100 miles south of Denver.
When those “savings” were offered to me a few years ago, I quickly and firmly declined. I’d never forgotten many years ago when my parents in Oklahoma City were offered a savings device for their air conditioner. As it turned out, the device would shut off their a/c for 15 minutes every hour. That’s more than enough time for the temperature in the home to rise considerably in the course of a day.
Neither of these “savings” plans made it clear that a/c might be disabled on particularly hot days. And I would guess those most likely to opt in to such savings plans would be retirees on fixed incomes trying to pinch a few pennies — people whose ages make them more vulnerable to temperature extremes.
So a word of warning if you’ve yet to encounter such offerings from your power company. Make sure you understand exactly what might happen before you accept such “savings.”