Just a couple of weeks ago I have enrolled in a SmartAC program offered by my local utility company – PG&E. What this program is about? It’s about saving energy.
This Saturday morning I had a couple of PG&E guys at my place retrofitting my old (but still pretty decent) 4-wire Lux TX1500E thermostat to a new, 5-wire, Honeywell UtilityPRO.
The UtilityPRO is a new breed, one of a kind 5/2 day (5 weekdays + 2 weekend schedules) touch-screen thermostat that could receive wireless updates from the utility company. It allows them to send short messages (like SMS or twitts) directly to your thermostat informing of your current power consumption, showing exactly how big of a bill you will get at the end of the month. They can also show you comparison to the previous year’s usage.
But the most important feature is that they can remotely change the mode of operation of your thermostat when the power is in big demand. Like in the summer months when it’s getting hot outside and everyone runs their ACs to the fullest, which creates huge stress on the utilities followed by power outages, brownouts, etc. Sounds a bit scary at first, isn’t it? In a Hitchcock kind of way. Someone from somewhere taking over your thermostat. But according to the reviews most people do not even notice when Energy Saving mode is activated by the utility. And if you do notice and it feels uncomfortable you have an option to opt out from the program for a day. Or leave the SmartAC program altogether. No hard feelings, thanks for trying.
As a bonus, utility gives you remote access to your thermostat, so you can also control your thermostat from the Internet. This could be great for the times when you return from a long trip or vacation and want your home to greet you with a nice breeze in the summer or a cozy warmth in the winter, without the cost of running HVAC when there’s no one home.
So far my new thermostat has been working fine. It’s very easy to use and it has a nice big screen with a green back-lighting (incidental?). I’ve spent maybe 5-10 minutes programming the weekly schedule and after that it’s been “Following Schedule” with occasional manual overrides from my side.
I still have to figure out a way to integrate UtilityPRO into my Insteon home automation system. If anyone has any experience with this set up please share in the comments below.