peaksaver Review

If you live in Ottawa or Toronto (other areas are covered as well) then I suggest you check out the peaksaver program. The idea is to help the utilities control the load on the electricity system during peak periods. By signing up for the program you allow your utility to bump your thermostat setting a few degrees when necessary (think 30+ days in the summer).

For giving up a little control they pass along some nice incentives. You get a one time rebate for signing up. They also come to your home to install a new programmable thermostat which has a pretty cool feature, allowing control from a website. This feature is great if you set the thermostat to hold while you are away on vacation, just login a few hours before you get home and you return to a nice comfortable house. Not bad for something that costs you nothing but a degree or two!

  • Well I have had the peaksaver thermostat installed for 6 months now, time for a little review. Just to note this has been during the winter months so no external utility control yet. I will report back when the summer heat waves arrive.

    I have had only one issue with it so far, it seems to loose what day of the week it is on. I am going to keep an eye on this to try determine why it happens, I will follow up if I come up with anything.

    The programming of the thermostat through the main interface is pretty standard. The only thing missing is a fan mode other then auto and on. My brother had a peaksaver install a month ago and it comes with a circulation setting which cycles the fan on for 15 minutes every hour. If you are in an older house this can really help even out the temperature.

    The web interface is a little clunky. You can set your week and weekend schedules through the web interface, but I find doing it directly on the thermostat easier. One warning on controlling from the web interface is that you can change the mode (off, heating, cooling) seems like a dangerous thing to get wrong remotely if you live in cold climate. At the moment the only reason I have used the web interface is to bump the heat back up before returning from a weekend away, very nice to come home to a warm house. This single feature is well worth signing up for this program.

    Just in case you didn’t listen to the tech when you had the thermostat installed. To login go to your utilities website. Find the link to login to peaksaver. Use the code found on the sticker of the thermostat as your user name. The password is likely the last name of the person listed on your bill.

    One feature I would like to see added would be able to read from the device the current temperature and settings. I know some people will cringe at the loss of privacy but being able to check that your house has not frozen while you were away would be worth giving up a little information.

  • Another update. Twice now the website that allows you to control the peaksaver thermostat has been down. This has been pretty frustrating. I have sent a request into the peaksaver support asking for an explanation, I will post the response when it arrives.

  • Victor L

    I have not signed up yet and looking for reviews.

    How the did summer months go with the A/C?

    Thanks,
    Victor

  • Hi Victor,

    We aren’t heavy users of A/C in the summer. I have not noticed any adjustments by Hydro Ottawa.

    Jamas

  • Just to clarify, in the description, “you allow your utility to bump your thermostat setting a few degrees”, this is not the case for Hydro Ottawa. Hydro Ottawa sends a signal to your thermostat to cycle your air conditioning in 15 minute intervals (on for 15 minutes and hold for 15 minutes) for up to 4 hours when a peaksaver event is called. The fan continues to run so there may be no noticeable change in your home’s temperature. Hydro Ottawa does not take “control” of your thermostat, or know what temperature it had been set at.

  • Thanks for the clarification, this 15 cycle minute approach seems to be much less intrusive. A follow up question, during the 15 minute hold cycle what would be displayed on the thermostat?

  • RP

    It would say ramping. Why is everybody crying so much? dont get it then. Listen this idea is amazing.

    ABOUT the BIG BROTHER comments this is technology like a pager system there is NO WAY that any CROWN organization offering such a Great program could have access to see the temp of your home it accepts a command DEMAND RESPONSE RAISE MAX 2 DEGREES nothing else. And if you really dont like it that much you can easily have it removed (AGAIN FREE OF CHARGE) by an experienced Gas and oil technician or Cert. electrician.

    So please for people looking for insight be open to new things, we only have 1 world, please lets do what we can do.

    Yes, you can access it from anywhere in the world
    Yes I got 25 bucks back
    Yes I have a very kind gentleman come to my home for free to install it
    Yes the thermostat is worth 250
    Yes it will save you money about 10-20% annually

    NO THERE IS NO CATCH REMEMBER YOU ARE ALREADY A CLIENT OF THIS COMPANY

    HAVE FUN! The stat is a fine upgrade for any home or business.

    Thank you for your time.

  • jennifer

    I am having my thermostat installed in a few weeks. I feel the same way as one of the other posts, this is our planet and we need to work together. If I was aware of an electricity shortage I would manually do what this program does?????
    Anyone who doesn’t is a selfish fool.
    The Big Brother comments are semi justified. Part of me is sceptical and conscious of that and I am going into this with my eyes wide open. I will read the fine print and make sure I am not locked in.

  • Into my 3rd year with the Peaksaver thermostat. Overall I have been very happy with my participation in this program. I have honestly never noticed a single peaksaver event in those two years.

    As for the thermostat itself my only gripe has been the lack of a cycle fan mode. My house is 1950s, the ducting is a mess, which leads to some fairly drastic temperature variations. Running the furnace fan seems to help mitigate this problem, but running it 24 hours a day seems like such a waste. I understand that the latest version of the Peaksaver thermostat has this feature. I actually tried getting the Peaksaver program to upgrade my unit. I was told this was not an option, but I could opt out of the program. I can understand not allowing upgrades, they don’t want to be spending resources every time they make a change to the thermostat.

    So for now I am sticking with the program. However, I have had my eyes on the ecobee thermostat. Made by a company in Toronto, this thing does it all. Remote monitoring of temperature, fan cycle modes, touch screen interface, iPhone ap, one push quick save mode and a vacation mode. You can even get weather reports directly off the thermostat. It will email you if there are any issues with your system. The only thing stopping me is the hefty price tag.

  • Hey Jennifer,

    Report back on how you like your new thermostat after a few weeks.

    Jamas

  • rosy

    well my bill was much much higher than normal with the peaksaver, we have been living here since 03 and this is the 1st time that we have this problem.

  • Interesting. This has certainly not been the case in my house with the peaksaver. Before you got the peaksaver what sort of thermostat were you using. Did you vary the temperature at all with the older thermostat. Also when have you noticed the increased bill, summer or winter? If you can provide more details it would be interesting to find out why you are seeing increases.

  • Antony

    Hi,

    Thanks for sharing your experience… not much out there… and there are meant to be 50,000 of us with peaksaver at home!

    Anyhow, just experienced an odd problem with peaksaver during the hot weather (described below)… but it led me to ask:

    Can I find out whether a “peaksaver event” has been declared?

    I’ve looked all over the web OPA, ISEO, Toronto Hydro etc. and can’t find it. Even the folks on the Toronto Hydro Peaksaver desk don’t seem to have ready access to this info? Anyone found it?

    Of course it would be even cooler 🙂 if I could find out if my peaksaver box next to my compressor was currently on or off or currently being asked to cycle my compressor without going outside and looking at the led!!

    ==Odd Problem Description
    I have the peaksaver box next to the A/C compressor outside which power cycles the compressor, not the thermostat.

    There was a Peaksaver event called in Toronto at least on Thursday (unsurprising) but my compressor only returned to normal operation at about 9pm!

    Between 5pm and 9pm (when there was a demand for A/C from my thermostat) the compressor only ran for 5-10 mins per hour, not the normal 15-20 mins on / 15-20 mins off. While the A/C compressor was NOT running the LED on peaksaver box mounted near the compressor was red – indicating that the compressor had been power cycled down by Toronto Hydro. After 9pm everything returned to normal – the LED on the peaksaver box was green again.

    I called the Toronto Hydro peaksaver # 1 877 487 8579 and was told there should have been no cycling after 5pm, but that they had (a few) other calls describing similar problems and sometimes it takes 30 mins after the end of an event for all peaksaver boxes to stop the power cycling of the compressor.

    They’re going to send a technician to check the health of my box – but wondering if anyone else experienced this?

    ==How does Peaksaver work?
    Finally, just wondering if anyone understands the technology at work. If it takes 30 mins for all boxes to stop power cycling this suggests each of the ~50,000 boxes are individually addressable – i.e. it takes 30 mins to send 50,000 commands to each individual box to return to normal behaviour. But can think of a bunch of reasons why this wouldn’t be a good design choice.

    Anyone know how it works? How do they tell a specific box (or thermostat) to powercycle the compressor and how do they ensure that 50% of the boxes are off in any 15-20 min period (to maximize the reduction in demand)?

  • Hi Antony,

    Thanks for writing. You raise several good questions in your comment. I will try to answer some of them, hopefully someone from peaksaver can also respond.

    The system that Hydro Ottawa uses is different then the Toronto Hydro. With the Hydro Ottawa system you get a special thermostat that allows Ottawa (and the owner) to control the thermostat remotely. I believe this is done by using the old pager network to send commands to it. It is a one-way communication, in other words you can’t see what the thermostat is set to remotely. It is possible that the box attached to your AC works in a similar way. I know for the thermostat each one is individually addressable.

    With the Hydro Ottawa system you know if your thermostat is being cycled on and off at 15 minute intervals by a indication on the screen “ramping”. In my several years of using the peaksaver I have yet to see this indication. I wonder if they only have to send the box a single command and a built in mechanism takes care of the 15 minute cycles until told to stop. By staggering the start command they could get roughly 50% of the units being controlled to be off. I’m just guessing on this.

    I agree with you, it would be nice if you could check if a “peaksaver event” had been declared. Something like this would be useful on the utilities website.

  • Antony

    Hi,

    Well technician visited today (worked for a sub-contractor “GoodCents” http://www.goodcents.com/portal/page/portal/goodCents). Also spoke to his boss at GoodCents earlier in the day.

    Learned a few interesting things which the boss agreed the people at TorontoHydro and even the Peaksaver call centre (who I think may also actually be GoodCents employees) don’t understand.

    1. Peaksaver events can be at anytime. The boss told me that the event on Thurs July 21 (when I had my problem) in Toronto the event started at about 4pm and finished around 8pm. The Peaksaver call centre people (two different CSRs) both told me Peaksaver events always finish around 5pm.

    Of course for me this may mean most of what I experienced was “normal” (see my original post and item 3 below)

    2. The boss and the technician told me technology used by Peaksaver is the alpha numeric paging network (didn’t know which carrier Rogers, Bell Mobility or Telus). Each box (or themostat) is individually addressable (i.e. has a unique pager id). But I remember from my days as a Bell Mobility employee that pagers can easily be grouped – i.e. you can send the same message to multiple pagers with one page request.

    The technician said that generally peaksaver boxes were grouped by neighbourhood and that a group of boxes would be turned on and off together (but see item 4). I guess that could make sense from a load balancing perspective.

    3. I learned from both the boss and technician that many/most A/C compressors have timers in the compressors (this is independent of any clock or program in the termostat). This timer is to prevent you (or your thermostat!) from turning the compressor on and off multiple times in a short period (i.e. within 5-10 mins). Apparently this “short cycling” can damage the compressor.

    So, the boss and technician told me that sometimes peaksaver can “interact” with the timer in the compressor such that the compressor remains off for longer than expected.

    In my case the technician rewired the peaksaver box and my compressor in such a way as (hopefully) bypass the timer . He wasn’t 100% sure because the wiring in every compressor is different…so there is some educated guessing involved.

    4. I got different stories from the boss and technician on the behaviour of the LED indicator light on the peaksaver box itself!

    The boss told me that the LED goes red at the start of a peaksaver event, and goes green at the end (i.e. some hours later). This would suggest that the peaksaver box then acts autonomously during the event itself – i.e. its times 15-20 mins on…15/20 mins off… until it gets another page to signal the end of the event.

    On the other hand the technician told me that the LED goes red only when the peaksaver box is actually preventing your compressor from running (assuming your thermostat is calling for cooling). This jives with my own observations. But it might also mean that the Peaksaver control centre is having to send a paging message each time to turn on and off groups of boxes. Given that this process of signalling the boxes to turn on/off over the pager network has some variability in timing, I would have thought this could have an negative impact on aggregated demand across the grid (which is the point of peaksaver!).

    So I can imagine reasons why both stories might not be true! 🙂

    Perhaps its some combination (i.e. me, the boss and the technician all managed to misunderstand each other!) – i.e. the instructions to start to cycle is sent once (as per the boss), but the LED doesn’t change when this message is received; then as box then acts autonomously cycling the compressor every 15-20 mins during which it turns the LED red (as per the technician).

    5. I was told by the boss there is no where on-line for anyone (including the CSR’s at the PeakSaver call centre!) to find out if an event has been called, when it starts, when it is due to end and actually ends. Also there is no way to find out if your box/thermostat has been “instructed” to cycle on/off.

    Both the boss and technician thought this would be a good idea(!) and promised to bring this to managements attention! Indeed the boss was a little exasperated when I told me of what the CSRs told me – since he said he does provide the info on the details of the timing of the events when he gets that info (he didn’t say from whom – but I think its the Ontario Power Authority-OPS or the Independent System Electricity Operation-ISEO)

    Ok that’s all for now…

    Can anyone add / clarify?

  • Hi Antony,

    Thanks for sending back your research, interesting stuff. Hopefully we can get others to post more information.

  • Alek

    We are installed “Peaksaver” thermostat few months ago. Recently we found it would reset our setting in “on-peak ” period of the day and we consuming more hydro than desire. Let say we set “Wake” at 5:30 AM for 20*C and “Leave at 6:45” AM for 18*C than thermostat (Power Stream) will reset our setting and stay at 20*C till 8:00 AM. Similar story in the evening hours when it will reset our settings and jump from set 18*C to 22*C 2 hours earlier than required and of course in “on peak” time of the day from 5 PM to 7 PM.Calling “Peaksaver” is not resolved anything. They schedule tech visit 30 days from my call. Considering remove this thermostat and install back my old programmable one.

  • Hi Alek,

    That doesn’t seem right at all. Is the time of day on the thermostat having issues or is it keeping time? I did have an issue where my thermostat would suddenly have the wrong time. Never tracked this down, just seemed to go away on its own.

    Assuming you setup the schedule using the direct thermostat interface, how about trying to set the schedule using the web interface. You could see if that clears up the issue.

    The wait for a tech to come seems excessive. Maybe a phone call to indicate you are going to remove the thermostat because it is not functioning properly would speed things up.

    Please let us know how this turns out.

  • Mr_Sweet

    Bumped into this thread while looking for a solution to my PeakSaverPlus thermostat issue. Here’s hoping someone can help me. Since the DST kicked in last week, the ‘day’ has been moved by 1. Like, it’s showing that it’s Sunday instead of Saturday. I have looked at all the settings and there seems to be NO way to adjust the current day on the device. If I click on CLOCK, it only changes the time. I tried going beyond midnight hoping it would shift the day but it just cycles the time. Anyone managed to change the day on their thermostat?

  • Hi Mr_Sweet,

    On my thermostat, which is the older PeakSaver model, there is a button labelled Set Clock/Day. If you hit the button once it allows you to set the clock. Hit it again to change the date. Let me know if that works on yours.

  • Mr_Sweet

    Sadly mine is different. Once I hit clock, it disappears and goes into the clock settings. Then I only have UP, DOWN, DONE and CANCEL as usable buttons. I’ve called the PeakSaver hotline and they said someone will get back to me on Monday. It’s a perfect example of bad usability 🙂

  • You must have the newer, better version. 🙂 Hopefully they get back to you with an answer soon. If they do please let us know, it might help others out.

  • Mr_Sweet

    A technician from peaksaver called just now. Basically, the only way to change the current day on the thermostat is to go into the Advance settings screen, which isn’t explained how we get into that screen anywhere in the manual. To get into that screen, you have to tap on the SYSTEM box then 5 empty will appear at the bottom. Hold the second and fourth empty buttons for a few seconds, then it will go into the Advance settings mode. After that there are two set of numbers that get displayed, one of the left and one on the right – I’m not sure what they represent (yet). Pressing up or down on the left set changes both sets of numbers. Pressing the up and down on the right set changes just the right number. That’s how you change the current day. When I asked why they didn’t simply make this available in the normal settings mode, he said that they don’t people to mess with it.

  • Wow that isn’t very straight forward at all. Thanks for writing back with the answer, hopefully it will help others out.

  • Stan

    To set the day you just pull the battery out (which is located on the left end on our model) , wait 15 seconds, then plug it back in. Then the day year and time screen comes up and you can set them.

  • Stan

    If this dosent work then pull the front of the unit from its base , wait 15 seconds , then set the day year time