We are a power hungry country. We use so much power and we are not even aware of it. The numbers can tell us exactly how power hungry we are.

The computer I’m using right now has a 1000W power supply, that’s because the original 500W supply wasn’t big enough. That doesn’t count the other computers that are part of the overall system, just this one computer. Let’s assume we are only using 750W of power.

This is 1HP. My knee mill uses a 1HP motor. My lathe uses a 1HP motor. My recut bandsaw uses a 1HP engine. These are big metal monsters. My computer is a 1HP computer. This should be mind boggling.

Our home has a 100A feed, it is rather old. Many new homes have 200A feeds. My grandparents home had 4 circuits and a 40A feed.

Our power consumption keeps going up.

And all that power has to come from somewhere. And it has to get to us.

The power grid does that. When politicians push electric vehicles they are adding to that pull on the grid. There isn’t enough power in the grid to charge the EVs that they want us to use. There aren’t enough transformers on the poles or big enough transformers on the poles for that sort of power pull.

But there is another part of the power grid that is sort of amazing. During times of lower demand they push less power into the grid. During the night people use less power and thus there is less need to push that much power into the grid. As people get up in the morning and start their morning routines they start to use more power and the power plants start to push more power into the grid.

Which brings us to this article:

Smart thermostats, which the paper said were present in around 40 percent of US homes in 2021, are programmed by default to have different night and day modes. In hundreds of thousands of homes across the US that means a sudden jump in electricity use right before residents wake up – if people aren’t changing default settings, which the paper suggests is the case.

Those hundreds and thousands of smart thermostats, typically configured to switch to day mode around 6am, “can cause load synchronization during recovery from nightly setpoint setbacks, increasing the daily peak heating electrical demand,” the paper said.
Smart thermostat swarms are straining the US grid

Yep, all those smart thermostats have clocks that are often very accurate and they all want to start at the same time. Thousands and thousands of homes all kicking in at exactly the same time.

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By awa

7 thoughts on “Unintended Consequences: Smart Thermostat version”
  1. Consider than almost all journalists around the world first misapprehend, then misinterpret the story they write about. There are no subject matter experts in our so-called news media.

    1. Yup.
      Back in the late 80s, when I started really paying attention, I noted that the business section of the paper had specialist writers who had at least some comprehension of the subject matter; I assumed the sports section was likewise. General news, no comprehension. Editorials, generally negative comprehension.
      Things seem to have gone downhill from there.
      Random point: a few years ago, my news feed included a Terrifying Tale of an airliner that had plummeted from the stratosphere to a much lower altitude. Many details that were plausible, with explanations that were not. Multiple big-name news sources had variations on this, all of them clearly nonsensical. Eventually, I found the Fox version. Fox didn’t have a subject-matter expert on staff, but someone had at least thought to consult one (an airline pilot, if memory serves). The expert gave a perfectly reasonable and coherent explanation of what happened and why. Gee, why didn’t any of the other networks think to ask an airline pilot for help covering an airline incident? More interested in sensationalism than in getting the story straight?

  2. Smart thermostats are great, huh? You can set them with your phone, change the settings from anywhere, great. So can the government. You set it to 76°, they can set it to 85° and lock it.

  3. Down here in hurricane central, we’ve always been told that if the power goes out, turn the A/C switch to off. That way, when the power company finally restores power the grid it isn’t trying to restart every A/C in the area at the same time. Often the power will come on, trip, come on again, trip, multiple times before staying on. Just for that reason. Same concept.

    And yes, I’ve lived in older homes that only had a few outlets, say one per room. And only one telephone jack. And no cable jack. And very small closets cause people back then didn’t have as many clothes. And small bedrooms cause people didn’t have king sized beds. And one bathroom for the entire family. Today even the poorest among us would be considered rich compared to people 100 years ago.

    1. “That way, when the power company finally restores power the grid it isn’t trying to restart every A/C in the area at the same time.”
      Hm. Seems like that would be a good place to include a little smartness in equipment with a large startup draw. On application of mains power, roll the dice to decide how many minutes to wait before starting the compressor or whatever – and a manual override would help with special situations, e.g., the A/C unit having been powered off for maintenance. (This sort of thing could also help avoid damage to the equipment from flickering power.)
      … Including virtual dice that are useful at power-up is left as an exercise for the student.

    2. Also being in hurricane central, I don’t turn the generator off and go back to mains until the power is on steadily. ;-))

    3. Indeed. Lots of small towns in the midwest have historical societies that will preserve a house or two of a “prominent citizen” from the past hundred years or so. Walking through one of those can provide an interesting perspective on what was luxury and wealth, versus today. One thing that consistently strikes me is the “fussiness” – detailed carvings on the beams and furniture, fancy mouldings, wallpaper, etc., even though the rooms were usually small by modern lights.
      .
      I suspect that was one reason Frank Lloyd Wright’s work was so striking when he came on the scene – it broke that convention in many ways.
      .
      Anyway. What the wealth was buying, really, was an abundance of time of skilled craftsmen employed for the sake of appearance, not functionality. Stuff, yes, but stuff that could not at that time really be mass-produced.

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