Thousands of Xcel customers in Colorado were locked out of their smart thermostats, meaning they had no control of the temperatures in their homes. The company said the problem was caused by an “energy emergency.”
Tony Talarico explained how he was not able to turn up air conditioning while at his partner’s home in Arvada.
“I mean, it was 90 out, and it was right during the peak period,” Talarico said. “It was hot.”
The thermostat displayed a message saying he could not turn up the cooling because he had been locked out 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.”
Social media was filled with thousands of such complaints on Tuesday, some saying they had been locked out of the thermostat at temperatures as high as 88 degrees.
Speaking to Contact Denver7, Xcel confirmed that some customers had been locked out of their thermostats for hours on Tuesday. Vice President of Customer Solutions and Innovation Emmett Romine said that the 22,000 customers who could not control their thermostats had registered for the Colorado AC Rewards program.
“It’s a voluntary program. Let’s remember that this is something that customers choose to be a part of based on the incentives,” he said. For participating in the program, customers received $100 in credit and $25 annually.
According to Romine, by signing up to the program customers agreed to give up some control in order to save money, energy, 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.
He added that it was the first time in the six years since the program was launched that customers were not able to override their thermostats. He said there was an “energy emergency” caused by hot weather, heavy usage of air conditioners, and an unexpected outage in Pueblo.
But customers like Tolarico did not know that the company had that much control.
“To me, an emergency means there is, you know, life, limb, or, you know, some other danger out there — some, you know, massive wildfires,” Talarico said. “Even if it’s a once-in-a-blue-moon situation, it just doesn’t sit right with us to not be able to control our own thermostat in our house.”