Thousands of Xcel customers locked out of thermostats during ‘energy emergency’
DENVER — During the dog days of summer, it’s important to keep your home cool. But when thousands of Xcel customers in Colorado tried adjusting their thermostats Tuesday, they learned they had no control over the temperatures in their own homes.
Temperatures climbed into the 90s Tuesday, which is why Tony Talarico tried to crank up the air conditioning in his partner’s Arvada home.
“I mean, it was 90 out, and it was right during the peak period,” Talarico said. “It was hot.”
That’s when he saw a message on the thermostat stating the temperature was locked due to an “energy emergency.”
“Normally, when we see a message like that, we’re able to override it,” Talarico said. “In this case, we weren’t. So, our thermostat was locked in at 78 or 79.”
On social media, dozens of Xcel customers complained of similar experiences — some reporting home temperatures as high as 88 degrees.
Xcel confirmed to Contact Denver7 that 22,000 customers who had signed up for the Colorado AC Rewards program were locked out of their smart thermostats for hours on Tuesday.
“It’s a voluntary program. Let’s remember that this is something that customers choose to be a part of based on the incentives,” said Emmett Romine, vice president of customer solutions and innovation at Xcel.
Customers receive a $100 credit for enrolling in the program and $25 annually, but Romine said customers also agree to give up some control to save energy and money and make the system more reliable.
“So, it helps everybody for people to participate in these programs. It is a bit uncomfortable for a short period of time, but it’s very, very helpful,” said Romine.
This is the first time in the program’s six year span that customers could not override their smart thermostats, Romine said. He said the “energy emergency” was due to an unexpected outage in Pueblo combined with hot weather and heavy air conditioner usage.
But Talarico said he had no idea that he could be locked out of the thermostat. While he has solar panels and a smart thermostat to save energy, he says he did not sign up to have this much control taken away.
Flashback 2008: NYT: California Seeks Home Thermostat Control – Excerpt: The conceit in the 1960s show “The Outer Limits” was that outside forces had taken control of your television set. California, state regulators are likely to have the emergency power to control individual thermostats, sending temperatures up or down through a radio-controlled device.