You may have heard that smart thermostats in Texas have been automatically turned up by power companies in order to conserve energy. Don’t panic— they were given permission by the homeowners. But why is this incentivized adjustment happening?
Energy companies, such as CPS Energy, have started programs to help incentivize cutting down on A/C usage for brief periods. This follows the devastating 2021 winter storm that left Texas with several fatalities, days of freezing temperatures, and a major power grid outage. Today we’ll take a look at what these energy companies are doing and why.
Wifi Thermostat Rewards
CPS Energy has initiated a “Wifi Thermostat Rewards” program that pays consumers an $85 flat rate when they register their eligible smart thermostats. On top of that, they also pay an annual rate of $30 at the end of each summer.
In exchange for this credit, you give CPS Energy permission to raise the temperature on your thermostat during what they call “conservation events.” On their website, they say that these events do not occur often. They also give you the opportunity to opt out at any time, although you will lose the eligibility to earn the annual credit.
Smart Savers Program
Another company sponsoring one of these arrangements is Energyhub with the Smart Savers program. Their terms are similar to CPS Energy’s, but they provide a different incentive. Under Energyhub’s program, you earn entries in a sweepstakes drawing of up to $5,000 towards a year’s worth of energy bills.
Energyhub also gives a bit more detail about their program’s adjustment and what to expect. When your thermostat is adjusted, they will only push it up to four degrees past where you originally set your thermostat. This may seem like a small difference in energy, but it can have a huge impact when implemented across several homes. Energyhub states that on average, your thermostat will be adjusted up to eight times throughout the summer. These moments of raised temperature seem to only be scheduled for a few hours at a time.
In order to be eligible for programs like this, you have to live in a participating state, have a smart thermostat installed, and be 18 years of age or older. Further details will be provided by the company that handles your home energy.
Why Is This Necessary?
In Texas’ situation, these programs are being offered to ease the stress on their power grid during extreme heat. After the previously mentioned winter storm, Texas saw exactly how negatively an outage can impact the wellness of the state.
Air conditioning may have a larger energy impact than you think. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), “the use of air conditioners and electric fans already accounts for about a fifth of the total electricity in buildings around the world— and 10% of all global electricity consumption.”
As global warming continues to push each summer to a new record heat, people depend on their air conditioning—but energy conservation is also a must. Many countries that experience high heat don’t actually have the luxury of air conditioning in most of their buildings. However, the number of air conditioning in those countries is growing as time goes on.
In their “The Future of Cooling” report, the IEA states that “by 2050, around 2/3 of the world’s households could have an air conditioner. China, India and Indonesia will together account for half of the total number”. Therefore, as industrial development continues, the number of air conditioning units in every country will rise. The IEA calls this the oncoming “cold crunch”.
What You Can Do to Conserve Energy
In order to combat the impact that an increasing number of air conditioning units will have on the world, the IEA recommends more efficient air conditioning. You can tell how efficient an air conditioning unit is by checking its SEER rating. A 14 SEER is not considered bad, but it is around the lowest you will find on the market. A SEER rating of 20 or more is considered extremely efficient.
If more efficient air conditioning systems aren’t normalized worldwide, but the world continues to set record heat, there will obviously be a problem (or a need for more solutions). In areas where energy overconsumption is a concern, many residents are looking into alternate ways to keep their home cool during times of extreme heat.
It is best that we all do our part in conserving energy, raising awareness, and filling our homes with the most efficient devices possible. If you have the ability to sign up for a smart thermostat energy-saving program, it can save you money, and it could potentially help save your local area’s power grid.