Dear PoPville – PEPCO Thermostat – More Than Doubled Our Electric Bill – Anyone Else Have a Problem?


“Dear PoPville,

On October 14th, we had one of PEPCO’s energy wise thermostats installed thinking it would both reduce our energy costs and provide an easy way to regulate our home’s temperature while we’re away since you can access it online. However, since installation, our energy bill has literally more than doubled all the while we’ve had it on colder temperature settings. We called to ask if there were other people experiencing a similar problem, and it seemed like PEPCO’s representatives were very unfamiliar with the program/ equipment. We’re curious if anyone else has had the same issue.”

26 Comment

  • Your heat is all electric, no gas?

    • ah

      Good question. Do you use a heat pump? Thermostat may not be set to work correctly with heat pumps, and it’s calling for auxiliary heat more than it should.

      • This is a good point. Electric heat usually runs in two modes: heat pump and auxiliary. Heat pump is essentially a reverse air conditioner; it pulls warm air from the outside and pushes it into your unit. Auxiliary heat works like an electric radiator; it heats coils and air pushed through that warms up. Heat pumps are very energy efficient; auxiliary heat is very energy inefficient. The result is that heat pumps are cheap, and auxiliary heat is costly. But auxiliary heat is necessary because below a certain temperature, heat pumps just can’t get enough warm air from outside to heat the unit. So when it’s below freezing, for example, you need auxiliary heat to kick in or you’re going to get cold air.

        All this to say: If it’s installed incorrectly, it may be activating the auxiliary heat rather than the heat pump. The end result is that you’re using the expensive system to heat your unit rather than the cheap system. Have them come back and look at the thermostat to make sure it was set up correctly. This may be something like crossed wires rather than anything more complicated.

        • That’s an excellent explanation. I had no idea why heat pump systems have that “Aux” light on their thermostats. Thanks!

      • id bet that this is the problem our heat pump aux heater is 10kW… that’s HUGE (1500 sqft condo). Can eat up the $ quickly.

  • Why does one need online access to regulate the temperature? Can’t you set it at 68 F auto before leaving the house?

    • ah

      Say you leave for vacation and set it to 58. But you want the house warm when you return – you log on and set it to 70 a few hours before your return.

      • I see your point but I think it won’t take too long to get the temperature back to 70 once you change the setting from home.

        • It’s a convenience. Also works in reverse: if you leave for vacation without setting the temp back, you can do it online from afar.

  • If the new thermostat was the culprit for your increased electricity use by way of running your heating for a lot longer than it should be, you should be at least anecdotally noticing your system running way way more than it should be. Is it? If your heating system is running all the time, or is making your place very warm despite a lower set temperature, then it very well could be the thermostat is defective or was installed incorrectly. Otherwise, it could be any number of things related either to the HVAC unit, or literally anything else in your place that draws power, or maybe a broken meter.

  • It could be that they’re now getting an accurate reading that they weren’t getting before. Pepco had installed new equipment at my building almost two years ago, and about a year later, when I changed the account to my name, they checked it, and apparently for the entire previous year, we had been paying for estimated usage and the actual usage was much higher. Pretty sucky, but I guess we got a discount for a whole year.

  • ah

    Also, do you know it’s thermostat that’s increased bill? Oct. 14 to now is a very short period to assess over. Also, the weather has been a bit cooler than average the last month:

    Two other possibilities:
    1) rates have gone up (look at kWh usage)
    2) you are using lights more now that it’s dark.

  • I do NOT recommend this program, and I consider myself to be hyper-sensitive to energy conservation. You’re essentially yielding your power – to control your own thermostat – to Pepco with this equipment. Sorry you’re dealing with this and I hope it gets resolved soon.

    • Where are you getting this from? New technology does not equal yielding power to the utility, that just seems a bit absurd im sorry

      • The poster is correct. This summer pepco was running a campaign to install these high tech themostats in exchange for enrollment in an energy program that allows them to turn off your a/c during peak demand.

      • Actually, here’s how it works: During the summer, during periods of peak demand for AC, you can authorize Pepco to cut your AC for up to a specified duration (I think it is four hours) a specified number of times, in exchange for a cash rebate for enrolling in the program. You can enroll in a program where they only do it rarely (my word not theirs, they specify how often, I just don’t remember) in exchange for a small rebate, or a program where they do it more often in exchange for a larger rebate. They do this during the peak periods of summer AC use, to prevent blackouts. For the length of time that they cut your AC on any given day, the temperature in your house won’t increase more than about 3-4 degrees.

        I’m enrolled in the program and I honestly couldn’t even tell when or if they actually did cut my AC. I do not believe they ever do it during the winter (peak winter heating demand places less strain on Pepco’s electrical system because a significant proportion of homes don’t have electric heat).

        Anyway, that’s a long way of saying: I think the program actually has some merit. I enroll, it helps prevent blackouts, I got a $100 rebate, and if they ever actually did cut my AC for a 4-hour period during the summer, I honestly did not notice.

  • check to make sure they’re reading the right meter. we just had an issue and discovered they were reading our neighbor’s meter! Once adjusted our monthly bills were much more on par to what we expected.

  • Your bills are higher because IT’S WINTER NOW.

  • There was a discussion of this last fall/winter on the Capitol Hill listserv where people had the same issues. You could probably go through the archives (its a Yahoo group).

  • Sorry to say, but no. I had a Pepco EnergyWise programmable thermostat installed last January and was able to reduce my power consumption by about 20% during the coldest weeks with it.

    I see in your post below that you have a heat pump. On the Pepco thermostat, you can use the System button to set to Heat, Cool, Auto, Aux, or Off. Pick heat, not Aux. There are more settings buried deep in one of the menus that control the rate at which the system tries to reach your temperature setting. Play with those, too. You don’t get to set the actual rate, it’s a setting called “Comfort” vs. “Econo” or something like that. The Comfort setting tries to heat up faster and thus uses the auxiliary heat more.

    One other possibility – I have a separate outdoor switch to cut power to the compressor for my heat pump. When the Pepco guy installed my thermostat, he turned that off for some reason, and forgot to turn it back on. If the compressor isn’t running, the heat pump will always use the auxiliary heat whenever the heat is on, so make sure your compressor is receiving power and is running when your system is on.

    Finally, the way heat pumps work (the following is over my head by the HVAC maintenance guy that came in to service the system last year told me this…), it will be more efficient if you set the thermostat *a few* degrees cooler when you’re not home, i.e., as opposed to turning it off or setting it a whole lot cooler when you’re not home, because heat pumps are pretty efficient to hold constant temperature or raise the temperature a few degrees, but if you let the temperature drop to 50 and then try to use the heat pump to heat it up to 70, it’ll work less efficiently (Again, I don’t get that – maybe it has to do with the auxiliary heat coming on, but anyway, that’s how somebody smarter than me explained it.)

    I have mine programmed to hold at 60 degrees overnight and when I’m not home during the day, and 66 in the evening when I am home, and I am finding that I seem to use about 20% less energy this way then when I was manually adjusting the thermostat all the time.

  • This program has always sounded like a scam to me. Constant mailings about saving $100s (with no time reference… $100/day? $100/year?…) and no real description of how much control you will have. Sign over your ability to adjust your own thermostat at times of peak usage??? No way. Just the last piece of technology that pepco needs to install in your home to engage in perfect price discrimination.

  • I tried signing up for that program when I first heard about it earlier this year, thinking I could get a free programmable thermostat (the one provided by our building was just set the temp, heat/cool, on/off). I ended up just buying my own for a couple of reasons: 1) I wasn’t too keen on giving control of my thermostat to PEPCO whenever they felt like it and 2) if your current thermostat sucks like ours did, you’ll easily recover that ~$60 from energy savings soon enough.

  • I cut my PEPCO bill has been cut by 40% since I had it installed. So yes, it’s definitely worth it, from where I’m sitting. The main reason for this dramatic drop is that the auxiliary heat from my heat doesn’t get activated all the time, as used to be the case with the previous thermostat. The regular heat comes on more often, keeping the place at a nice, constant temperature (the previous thermostat didn’t react until there was at least a 4-degree difference with the setting, thus activating the auxiliary heat all the time.) I’m a lot more comfortable and it’s costing me a lot less. As for the energy rewards, I have yet to feel any consequence (though to be fair, the weather has not been extreme for the most part.)

    I would suggest you contact PEPCO. You should not have seen an increase, but rather a decrease in your bills. Something is obviously wrong with the set-up or the connection to your heating system. If you point it out to them, I imagine they’ll come out for free (they are responsible for the set-up, after all.)

  • I have had the same issue. Haven’t called Pepco yet due to my own defeatist attitude.

    All electric here.

  • I think the best bet is to get a nest thermostat ( My energy bills have dropped 25% since I switched over. I can easily adjust the thermostat from my iphone if i forgot to do so before leaving my home.

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