Technology Evaluation of Programmable Communicating Thermostats with Radio Broadcast Data System Communications

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Programmable Communicating Thermostats are thermostats that can be programmed by the user to respond to signals indicating a grid-level system emergency or pricing event. The California Energy Commission is considering standards that would include a requirement for Programmable Communicating Thermostats in residential and small commercial applications. The current specification for Programmable Communicating Thermostats requires Radio Data System communications to Programmable Communicating Thermostats.

This study tested the signal strength and reliability of Radio Data System signals at 40 customer sites within the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, which is serviced by 17 radio stations that already transmit Radio Data System signals. The study also tested the functionality of a commercially available Programmable Communicating Thermostat for compliance with California Energy Commission design standards.

Test results demonstrated that Radio Data System is capable of reliably sending price and emergency signals. This study also provides evidence that existing Programmable Communicating Thermostats, on receiving a Radio Data System pricing or event signal, are capable of automatically increasing setpoints to a customer-determined or utility-determined level, thus providing air-conditioning demand response within seconds or just a few (less than 5) minutes.

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