WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The heat wave gripping much of the southeast is straining energy supplies across the country.
Duke Energy Progress is utilizing a system designed to reduce energy consumption on a larger scale by circulating some household air conditioning units on and off for short periods of time during the hottest days of the year.
Many people have expressed their frustrations over the effects of the EnergyWise Home Program in community forums and neighborhood Facebook groups in the greater Wilmington area.
Some people say they’ve come home to find it 80+ degrees inside or substantially warmer than what they left the thermostat set to. Others have mistakenly thought their unit was broken and called a technician only to find out the unit was going through an “off” cycle as part of this program.
The program is voluntary, and homeowners must choose to opt-in and have a special box added to the side of their home near the outdoor HVAC unit.
“What [it] does is it helps Duke Energy to better manage energy across its system so it frees up some generation that can be used to serve all customers and avoid us hitting that high end of our usage limits,” said Duke Energy Progress spokesperson Jeff Brooks.
According to the Duke Energy Progress website, “this technology allows us to temporarily reduce energy consumption during times of unusually high energy demand by cycling power off and on to your air conditioner’s compressor a portion of each half hour. The fan continues to operate normally. When activated, the cycles occur for up to four hours, typically between 1 and 7 p.m.”
Brooks said, "its just the compressor turns off and its something that you may think – ‘why’s my air conditioner not working?’ Well give it 15 minutes and it will come back on and you really won’t notice much of a difference temperature-wise.”
In Leland, Daniel Galusha says he opted into the program several years ago because it sounded like a good idea at the time. However, he says his unit was being cut off for hours at a time.
“ When its 95 and 100 degrees out and your air conditioner is cut off for three or four hours it doesn’t take log for the house to get extremely uncomfortable,” he said.
He opted out of the program roughly two years ago.
Duke Energy Progress offers a $25 bill credit for enrolling and you must opt-in. The company cannot control your air conditioning without your permission. For renters, the home-owner can start the process but the tenants must approve it through their own Duke Energy account.
If you aren’t sure whether you’re enrolled in the EnergyWise Home Program, the easiest way to check is to go out and look at your outdoor air conditioning unit. If you are enrolled, there will be a box mounted on the wall of your home near and connected to the unit that is labeled with Duke Energy Progress information.
In the box’s small window there will be either a red blinking light or a green one. Green means your AC is running. If you see a red dot, the unit is currently off as part of a cycle and it should turn back on and the dot should turn back to green.
If your unit is off for more than an hour, you may want to call an HVAC technician.
At O’Brien Service Company, technicians ask that you check for those blinking dots before calling. The HVAC servicing company has seen a dramatic increase in calls over the last few days and estimates a majority of them are from people who think their unit is broken when it isn’t.
“In the process of trying to call all of these customers back we confirmed with them, by the time we got to them, the system was running normal but they had the Duke Energy power saver,” said O’Brien Service Manager Dwight Lovett.
You can learn more about the Duke Energy Progress EnergyWise Home Program here.
If you’re a Duke Energy Progress customer with questions about your unit you can call 800-832-3169 to check its status.
The EnergyWise call center can also be reached at 866-541-8886.