My PG&E Smart AC unit shut down my air conditioner so I power cycled it.

cannon SmartAC unit

When our AC system was overhauled a couple years ago, we were enrolled in the SmartAC program with PG&E. I don’t remember doing this, but it doesn’t surprise me because I’m happy to participate in a program that can keep blackouts or brownouts from occuring.

Unless that means that my AC goes out on a day when the temperature is in the mid nineties, which is what happened to me recently and I assume it could happen to others too, so here’s how I got it working again.

After fiddling around with the thermostat, to no avail, I went out to look at my compressor and noticed that there was a red light on in the box mounted on the wall above the unit (a picture of one of these is on the top of this post). After searching Google for Cannon Technologies Air Conditioning, I saw that it was a controller used by PG&E in their SmartAC program. I went to their website and opened this page that talks about what the red light means and mentions that it is unlikely for this to cause an AC unit from not working. I tried calling PG&E at the number listed, but by this time, it was too late to get a live person on the phone and I was given the option of leaving a message.

Having no confidence that this was going to be valuable, I searched further and found this page on the SFGATE site, that talks about how these SmartAC units caused more than three thousand customers to lose their AC back in July 2013. So much for SmartAC units not causing problems. The article explained how a software upgrade did not work correctly, effectively taking the AC units offline. Apparently these units needed to be rebooted as part of the SW update.

Suspecting this was my problem too, I powered down the AC system at my circuit breaker.  Nothing happened. Hmm, I thought, so I tried again, flipping the circuit breaker and going to look at the thermostat and the compressor/SmartAC unit. It all looked good and the red light on the SmartAC unit was out. Great I thought, all I needed to do was wait a couple minutes and things would start working, right? Wrong.

Instead, the red light on the SmartAC unit came back on and the AC stayed off.  I pondered this for awhile and then decided to try again, this time shutting off the AC circuit breaker for 5 minutes or so. When I flipped the switch back on this time I went to the thermostat, reset the temperature again and heard the clicking of solenoids, the fan restarted and about a minute later, the starting of the compressor itself and cool air flowing shortly thereafter.

So there you have it, the SmartAC units are just like any other digital device that can get hung and need to be power cycled. FWIW, this all happened last week, which means the AC has been running for several days since then, so I think it’s more or less fixed.

One last thing, in all this, the programming on the thermostat seems to have gotten screwed up. Not sure why, but it was probably pilot error on my part because the thermostat has it’s own battery to keep it operating through power outages. That’s no big deal, but I can never remember how to program the damn thing. I guess I could get a smart thermostat that I could program with a phone or laptop, but I’m not that guy.

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