Texas homes heat up as power companies alter smart thermostats

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Texas homeowners have discovered their homes are getting warmer despite the use of air conditioning, with the discovery that energy companies are remotely adjusting the thermostat to higher temperatures with minimal warning.

Residents in Houston and surrounding areas have complained that their thermostats have been increasing in temperature, seemingly on their own. Rather than keeping the house cool, the thermostats have been remotely tampered with to operate at a warmer temperature.

In one example aired by WFAA, the English family of Deer Park discovered such a situation on Wednesday. Brandon English returned home that day to discover his wife and daughters had lowered the temperature at 2:30pm, but it had been changed while they had a nap.

The house had risen in temperature to 78 degrees, English said, and that his wife and kids "woke up sweating." He was concerned about his three-month-old daughter potentially dehydrating from the heat in the unbearably hot home.

Later, his wife received an alert advising their thermostat was changed remotely as part of a three-hour "energy-saving event."

It was determined that the family's thermostat was enrolled into a program called "Smart Savers Texas," operated by EnergyHub. As part of an agreement, EnergyHub could remotely control the thermostat during a period of high energy demand, in exchange for entry into sweepstakes.

The changes occur during a period in the summer where homeowners are putting a strain on the power grid to keep their homes cool with air conditioning. On Wednesday, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas urged residents to raise their thermostats to reduce the strain on the power grid.

In a statement received by Gizmodo, EnergyHub said "During a demand response event, Smart Savers Texas increases the temperature on participating thermostats by up to four degrees to reduce energy consumption and relieve stress on the grid. Every participant actively agrees to the terms of the program and can opt-out of a demand response event at any time."

EnergyHub says it works with a number of smart thermostat vendors, including some that offer thermostats with HomeKit support. The list includes Ecobee, Honeywell, and Lux, as well as Google's Nest, which pledged support for the Apple-backed smart home protocol Matter in May, meaning HomeKit support for Nest thermostats is in development.

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