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Turning the Heat Up on Austin Energy


White-Rodgers Programmable Thermostat

Becoming a Power Partner may not be the best move for your wallet.

As the year crept into the winter season, it was quite a shocker to feel breezes in Austin that were cooler than most northern states.  The temperature dropped lower than 15 degrees Fareinheit through some parts of the week.  It was clear that this would be the year Austinites would actually have to bundle up.

Of course with cold weather, comes a higher demand for heat; rather it be from central heating or fireplaces.  In this particular case, it appears Austin Energy wants to step up to the plate in the central heating department.  They have decided to meet that higher demand with a preimposed Power Saver Program and a newly designed White-Rodgers Programmable Thermastat.

Because the White-Rodgers Programmable Thermastat comes free with adoption of the Power Saver Program, most Austinites have implemented them into their homes in an attempt to lower their electricity bill in a economic time where every penny counts.  What has angered many Austin Energy customers is that the total opposite seems to be occurring.  Energy consumption has risen and as a result, so has the electric bill for so many customers.

Many apartment complexes have reported swapping over 200 of the units since its installation, and some units had numerous units installed over a short period of time, which ultimately ended in many rentors opting for their older units to be reinstalled in a effort to lower energy costs.  A rentor from Broadmoor Apartments in North Austin reported that her thermostat was replace 5 times within a 6 month timeframe.  She is now using one of the older thermostats with the sliding guages.

These units were incorporated by Austin Energy in an attempt to combat rising peak issues as the use of central air conditioning and heating units has become more prevalent over the years.  A portfolio was designed to balance demand response with conservation programs.  The units are suppose to help customers save up to 15% on there electric bills.  Steve Saenz, Program Coordinator of Austin's DSM Energy Services Unit, states that this program is the most cost efficient for the company.  This has clearly proven to be highly cost inefficient for Austin Energy customers.  One White-Rodgers Programmable Thermastat user reported a rise in his electricity bill from the $80 per month price cap to a whopping $270.  The units reportedly met many testing issues with frequency interference which was unable to be replicated during field testing.  Mr. Saenz admitted that the testing stages were much longer than expected. 

The program calls for a 33% cycling strategy that gives Austin Energy control over the operation of your heating and cooling unit during peak hours.  This is suppose to help customers share the load; however, for many, the financial load seems a bit too much to carry. 

It may be a wise decision to become an active meter reader and make an educated decision on rather this program may be the right choice for your financial needs.

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