Free smart KUB thermostat comes with a catch

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- The Knoxville Utilities Board announced eligible customers can receive a free ecobee smart thermostat and installation.

The thermostats allow you to customize your climate remotely and track in-home energy use. / (KUB)

The ecobee thermostat is Wi-Fi enabled and allows customers to customize their climate remotely and track in-home energy use.

The eScore Smart Thermostat Pilot program is administered by the Tennessee Valley Authority and provides qualifying KUB customers with a free ecobee smart thermostat.

However, the offer comes with a catch. TVA and the utility company will have access to change the thermostat between one and four degrees during high demand events like in extreme heat or cold.

By enrolling in the program, KUB says, "participant agrees that TVA and/or Host may change the temperature set-point in a Participant's home during a Demand Response Event without prior notification" and "Participant agrees to allow KUB, TVA, Contractor, and any other third-party contractor hired by TVA access to all thermostat data collected from the smart thermostat(s) installed."

"Where you've got exceptionally cold temperature outside -- teens or single digits. Thermostats are way up because they're having to work to offset the temperature," Chris Tyler, a representative for KUB, said. Tyler said a minimal change in the temperature would "help reduce the strain on the power grid."

KUB said if the customer does not like the changed temperature, then they can still override. According to the pilot program's agreement, the temperature can only be changed eighteen times in a twelve-month period.

By enrolling in the program, KUB says, "participant agrees that TVA and/or Host may change the temperature set-point in a Participant's home during a Demand Response Event without prior notification" and "Participant agrees to allow KUB, TVA, Contractor, and any other third-party contractor hired by TVA access to all thermostat data collected from the smart thermostat(s) installed."

A KUB representative said utility companies across the country are adapting similar programs. They said it also helps customers reduce consumption and eventually their bill.

To qualify, customers must meet the following requirements:
1. Customer must have an active KUB electric account (at least one year)
2. Home must have an electric heat pump or electric forced air furnace
3. Home must be detached single-family dwelling, two-unit duplex; or townhouse/condo (with property lines between dwellings)
4. Home must have Wi-Fi internet service
5. Customer must be registered or register with TVA eScore program

The installation is also free of charge. KUB said the Ecobee thermostat would typically cost around $200.

KUB also adds that "if participant fails to participate for the full one-year period, TVA may charge participant for the actual incurred costs of any smart thermostat installed under the pilot."

So far, KUB said about 200 people have signed up for the program. They have up to 2,000 to give out.

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