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Westar touts new energy-saving thermostats

Westar Energy announced today it was launching a new energy conservation program that will use state-of-the art thermostats to cut up to 20 percent from the average annual cost of heating and cooling a home or business.

Westar said the program will use Honeywell UtilityPRO thermostats that can precisely manage room temperatures and can be accessed remotely through the Internet.

The remote access allows customers to change thermostat settings from afar.

It also allows Westar to automatically cycle compressors on and off for 15-minute intervals during the peak demand hours of the summer months.

The cycling occurs only on weekdays, Westar said, and participants can opt out of cycling during one day of every month.

Paula Carvell, an energy efficiency manager at Westar, said the company plans to install more than $300 worth of hardware and computer software in the home or business of each customer who participates.

Westar technicians will install the thermostats at no cost, she said. Participants who decide to drop out of the program can have their original thermostats reinstalled at no cost.

The program was unveiled at a news conference at the Bank of America Building in downtown Wichita. Mayor Carl Brewer and about three dozen workers from Westar and Honeywell attended the event.

Carvell said Westar hopes to install 90,000 of the thermostats by 2016. The energy savings, she said, could allow the company to avoid building a small "peaking power plant" that might be needed in the future to handle energy demands during the hottest periods of summer.

The program is available to residential customers and small and medium-sized businesses that have central air conditioners in good working condition.

Westar has about 650,000 customers, Carvell said, and she estimated that 80 percent would qualify for the program.

Information about the program is available at www.westarenergy.com/wattsaver.

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