The thermostat that ate a Long Island blackout.

By BUILDER Magazine Staff

One goal of what's being called the "connected home" is control of home systems via the Internet. This summer, a New York electric utility proved that goal's practicality not only to homeowners, but to the community. Most people in the Northeast will remember a two- or three-day heat wave, when temperatures hovered near 100 degrees F. But most don't know that Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), which serves the western edge of Long Island, just outside New York City, nearly ran out of power. The reason, of course, was that most everyone had their air conditioners turned on. "We were close to the edge," recalls LIPspokesman Michael Lowndes.

Carrier's Comfort Choice proves that Internet-enabled home control can be a winner.
Carrier Carrier's Comfort Choice proves that Internet-enabled home control can be a winner.

What kept it from falling over the edge was the new Comfort Choice thermostat from Carrier (, which LIPA had installed in 2,500 homes, and which it could remotely adjust during a crisis. According Lowndes, the utility did just that on three separate days, reducing demand on July 25, Aug. 7, and Aug. 8 for periods lasting from two to four hours.

Most homeowners didn't even know it happened. LIPA only reduced temperatures a few degrees, and for just 15 minutes at a time. And it cycled through the 2,500 homes, doing blocks of them at a time. Lowndes says this reduced demand by about 1.6 megawatts, the equivalent of 1,600 homes. That savings prevented rolling blackouts.

Carrier spokesman Jon Shaw says that you can only get Comfort Choice where the utility offers it. But consumer systems are coming. Next summer, Carrier will test a Web-enabled air conditioner in Europe that homeowners can control via the Web or a cell phone--regardless of where they live. More importantly, the system will send regular diagnostic information to a HVAC dealer, who can tell the homeowner when it's time for maintenance. "The goal is to make the home work for you instead of you having to work for it," says Shaw.