Some PG&E customers lost their air conditioning during the peak of this month's heatwave when their power-saving "Smart AC" units failed.
The switches, which customers can request, are intended to shut down the compressors on the air conditioners for brief periods, no more than 15 minutes at a time, as a way to save customers money and reduce the load on the power grid during times of peak demand, such as a heat wave. But one type of switch failed on July 1 for unknown reasons and refused to turn the air conditioners back on, utility spokesman Jonathan Marshall said.
It's not yet clear how many people were affected. About 50 people called to complain and there are as many as 10,000 units systemwide with the particular hardware and software combination that failed, Marshall said. There are about 160,000 SmartAC switches of various types in PG&E's Central and Northern California service area.
Santa Rosa resident Gary Rodrigues<NO1><NO> was one of those affected, though he did not at first suspect it was a problem caused by PG&E. Instead, he assumed his own equipment had failed and called an air conditioner repair company. It took several days to get a technician out, leaving Rodrigues and his wife sweltering in the hottest weather of the year.
The technician reset the box and said he had seen several such failures in the area, Rodrigues said.
"When I found out what it was, I was really frustrated and angry," he said.
Marshall apologized on behalf of the company and said it appeared that the problem was largely resolved by July 2 or 3, though there may be customers who were affected and the company is not yet aware of it. In most cases, the company was able to remotely reboot the units and restore the air conditioning.
PG&E is updating the software in the affected switches, he said.
SmartAC customers may call the program's hotline at (866) 908-4916 with questions or to report problems.
Marshall said this is the first widespread problem with the system since it was established in 2007.