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Peak Saver
Remotely Controlled AC

Susan Ives is a past president of Alamo PC.

City Public Service came to our house in February and installed a brand new programmable thermostat. They didnít charge us a penny for either the thermostat or the installation and odds are weíll have a lower electric bill this year. And guess what Ė thereís a possibility you can get one same deal.

No one else Iíve spoken to seems to have noticed the flyer for the Peak Saver energy program that was slipped in with their electric bill last month but I was on the phone the moment it arrived.

Hereís the deal. In exchange for getting a new thermostat installed, you agree to allow City Public Service to raise your temperature by remote control in the summer. When demand for electricity is at its highest during the months of May, June, July, August and September, CPS may cycle your air conditioner off for no more than 10 minutes every half-hour from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays.

There are several qualifiers: you must be a CPS customer in a single family home with central air conditioning and the unit must be accessible (not on the roof, for example.)

CPS calls their program the Peak Saver Program but the concept in generally referred to as Direct Load Control.

The key is a radio frequency transmitter embedded in the thermostat. Using the same technology that is used in pagers, the electric company can remotely control your thermostat. They claim that any change in your comfort level will be negligible, less than two degrees. In the first wave of installations they plan on installing 1,600 radio-controlled thermostats.

The benefits to CPS and our community are obvious: they get better control over electrical usage which could decrease the need for expensive power plants in the future. But whatís in it for you?

Figure 1: Programmable Thermostat
Figure 1: Programmable Thermostat

First, you get the free programmable thermostat and installation, a $200 value.

Just having a programmable thermostat can save you money: some studies I read said as much as 30% on your heating and air conditioning bills. If everyone in your house is at school or work during the day, you can pre-program the thermostat to leave the house warmer during the day when it is empty and to cool it down just before everyone starts returning home. CPS says that in the summer you will save about 3%-4% of you energy bill for every degree you keep the thermostat above 78 degrees.

Finally, you can manipulate your thermostat over the Internet. The same technology that allows CPS to fiddle with your temperature is used to set up a password-protected Website. Under the contract, you can use it up to four times a month to adjust your thermostat remotely yourself.

Installation took about an hour. The installer checked our air conditioner, popped out the old thermostat (which he gave back to use) and wired the new one onto the same wires. He spent time with us explaining how to program our new device.

If you want more information, visit the CPS Web site.

To enroll or to talk to a human being about the program, call them toll free at (866) 222-7645.

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