As temperatures reached into the 90s on Tuesday, thousands of people in the Denver, Colorado, area were locked out of their thermostats, unable to regulate the temps inside their homes.
Minnesota-based utility company Xcel Energy confirmed that 22,000 customers enrolled in the Colorado AC Rewards program were locked out of their thermostats. Instead, they were met with an “energy emergency” message.
“Normally, when we see a message like that, we’re able to override it,” resident Tony Talarico told KMGH-TV. “In this case, we weren’t. So, our thermostat was locked in at 78 or 79.”
Customers could not use their thermostats for several hours, and some reported that inside temps reached as high as 88 degrees.
Xcel confirmed that the rewards members were affected but emphasized that customers choose to sign up for the program. Customers receive $100 credit for enrolling and $25 annually while agreeing to give up some control of their thermostats to conserve energy.
“It is a bit uncomfortable for a short period of time, but it’s very, very helpful,” Emmett Romine, the vice president of customer solutions and innovation at Xcel, said.
Romine pointed out that this is the first time since the program began six years ago that customers have been blocked from being able to regulate the temperature inside their homes. He said several factors contributed to the energy emergency: air conditioner usage during hot weather and an outage in Pueblo.
Talarico told the outlet that he was unaware that he could be blocked from using his thermostat and that he did not sign up for the rewards program believing he could lose control of regulating the temperature in his home.