I am a control freak.

It’s not a personality trait, it is my profession.

This morning I was doing my obligatory surfing on work time when I ran across this headline on Fark:


Electric utility plans text-messaging thermostat to keep customers aware of usage and hourly price. R U 2 Hot? SUK It


R U 2 Hot? Utility Plans Text-Messaging Thermostat 

URBANA, Md. (AP) — Some homeowners in Frederick County, Md., may be among the first in the nation to receive text messages from their thermostats.


As part of a test of newfangled energy-saving devices, electric utility Allegheny Power is proposing installation next year of “smart thermostats” in hundreds of homes in the Urbana area about 40 miles northwest of Washington.


The gadgets would enable customers to control their home temperature remotely through a Web site that conveys hourly energy price and usage information. The utility says the thermostats could also include a text-messaging feature.


The devices are part of the company’s plan for meeting the state’s goal of a 15 percent reduction in energy consumption by 2015. The proposal requires the approval of the state Public Service Commission. 




The goal here is for the utility company to operate your thermostat with out your consent to save the enormous investment on building a new power plant..

I almost have to admire the pluck of the utility company. 

Or am I being too cynical?


When I worked in California, PG&E had and probably still has a program where you can get a break on your energy bill by having a little box installed on your air conditioner.  The box allowed the energy company to turn off your air conditioner when the demand is high.  This is done by radio remote through the power lines; it interrupts the signal from your thermostat that turns on the AC.  The program was so successful that after a while the boxes were installed on new homes with out the permission of the homeowners.  The reasoning behind this is that it was cheaper for the electrical company to shut down air conditioners during peak demand than to build a new power plant. 


I learned about this out when I worked for an HVAC company doing warrantee work.  I would get a call for an AC not working on a brand new home.  When I would get there I would have the following conversation with the home owner:

Homeowner: “So AC dude, can you fix my air conditioner, it’s like over 80 in my house and I am expecting like a zillion guests in an hour”

Me: “The ac works fine; it’s just that the electric company turned it off for a while.  I am sure it will come on when it’s cooler outside”

Homeowner:  “You’re shitting me”

Me: “No sir, you will have to call your electrical provider and ask them to allow your ac to run”

Homeowner:  “So let me get this strait, I bought a new home, and I can use the AC as much as I like, unless it’s like really hot outside?”

Me “Yep, Have a nice day”

I am glad not to be a customer service rep for the electric company.  I am sure that many customers had some nice helpful places where the electric company can put those boxes.


Now a utility company is telling people that they can control their thermostat while away from home via the internet?  Why?


I am willing to bet that if the home owner has that kind of control the utility does too.  They will exploit it to achieve the 15% savings that they have set as a goal, with out the home owner’s permission. 


You would think that being a control freak I would be all in favor of this.  Well I am not.  If you want to be a control freak in your own home that’s fine.  I would, however, be cautious when the company that is selling you your electricity wants to give you access to your own power for the purpose of satisfying the goal of selling you less electricity.   


Does this sound fishy?  Can anyone name another business that takes pride in reducing the customer demand for its product? 


I smell government involvement.  “The state’s goal of a 15 percent reduction in energy consumption”?  The state has a goal of reducing a businesses customer demand?  And the business is voluntarily working towards this goal?


Am I being paranoid?




4 thoughts on “Controled

  1. Burrowowl says:

    Wouldn’t you be better off putting some photovoltaic panels on your roof, cutting into your electrical demand most heavily right when you’re most likely to have that AC running full-blast?

  2. Actually the best approach to air conditioning is to design a home for natural cooling in the summer and natural retention of heat during the winter. Houses are generally designed first for appearance, then for comfort and usability, then for cost of materials. The last thing on the architects mind is environmental control. This is usually an afterthought that is crammed into a home like a square peg into a round hole. If a home is designed around the environment where it is built, is orientated correctly for seasonal exposure, and utilizes the surrounding elements efficiently then the desire for air-conditioning is greatly reduced. Notice I said desire not need. Only during the last 50 years or so was it not considered a luxury to have air-conditioning in a home. People may want air conditioning, but they need heating.

    My point was that we are living in a twisted society where energy is not treated as a product. Most companies encourage people to use more of the product they sell, look at beer, tobacco, and sports drinks. In contrast Electric companies want to encourage people to use less. They burn fuel to supply a never ending demand, and then offer us incentives to use less. I simply find this interesting. An economic bizarro world of energy.

  3. Oh, I’ve got one for you PF! Southern Maine Power runs a contest every Christmas for the best home light display! Whole neighborhoods compete and the lumes put out are just amazing. If you roll down the widow as you drive by, you can almost hear the electric meter screaming in pain. Blows my mind!

    Some follow up ideas…

    Promoted by tobacco: Smoke-a-lot day. How many can you go through in one day?

    Promoted by the Water District: All taps on day! How much water can you go through?

    Promoted by the airlines: Double Booked Day! Buy a plane ticket and see if we can fill every seat on every airliner in the US!

    On the topic of some company… or anyone for that matter, choosing when I can run a legally owned device in my house… NO! WRONG! If they asked me to and explained why, I’d most likely do it. Tell me to and you get a very different answer with a possible bonus hand gesture!

    -Turkish Prawn

  4. Tony says:

    I would like to get text messages from our pantry cupboard letting me know when the wife has restocked the chocolate…

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