Oncor's 'Take a Load Off, Texas' campaign offers Dallas residents smarter thermostats, for a price
Heating and cooling costs make up half of your average home's utility bills. A smarter thermostat, then, could save you big bucks, and so we're glad to see Texas utility company Oncor rolling out EcoFactor software and compatible thermostats to subscribers. These units look straightforward enough, but connect to the interwebs to download weather reports, meaning they can anticipate heatwaves and cool spells and plan accordingly. They can also figure out just how long it takes to get your home to a certain temperature, so if you want it 74 degrees at your pad by the time you arrive from work at 5:30 this thing can figure out the last possible minute it needs to spin up the AC. That's great, and a $19.95 installation fee is similarly encouraging, but we're not so keen on the $8.99 "monitoring" fee Oncor will be charging monthly. For that kind of cash this thing should track us on Latitude figure out our schedule by itself.

Update: We got a note from EcoFactor who wanted to clarify a few things, primarily that they don't actually do the thermostats, just software. Its their software that tells the otherwise absent-minded thermostats what to do, which is where the subscription fee comes from (erroneously called a "monitoring" fee by our initial source). The first six months are free, but after that you're on the hook for nine bucks every lunar cycle or so. We still think that's a bit steep, but we've certainly spent more on less worthwhile things.