EPA Finalizes ENERGY STAR Ratings For Smart Thermostats, Nest First To Qualify

By Joshua Hill, originally published on Clean Technica, 9 Mar 2017

The US Environmental Protection Agency has finalized its first-ever ENERGY STAR specifications for smart thermostats, a move which resulted in the Nest Learning Thermostat becoming the first smart thermostat to receive an ENERGY STAR rating.

The first-ever ENERGY STAR specifications for smart thermostats were determined back on December 23, 2016, but only announced this month by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Unlike other ENERGY STAR-rated products, however, smart thermostats provided a challenge for the EPA, which explained that the “challenge in identifying household thermostats that save energy is accounting for how an individual or family ultimately sets the temperature.” The EPA highlights the findings from a report from Commonwealth Edison that estimated between 30% and 35% of cooling energy use could be saved by consumers if they chose more efficient thermostat set points.   The EPA therefore focused on recognizing products that save energy “as they are actually used in homes.” According to the EPA:

“For this new product category, ENERGY STAR recognition is awarded to a product based on both hardware and service elements; the device on the wall and the service supporting its smart functionality must meet criteria included in the ENERGY STAR specification. For the first time, this ENERGY STAR specification relies on analysis and aggregation of field data, rather than a laboratory test, to factor in the way the devices are use and ensure savings in-use.”

“EPA is excited to recognize leading manufacturers designing their products with new smart technology that can provide considerable savings to households as they are actually used,” said Abi Daken, program manager for ENERGY STAR HVAC products. “Anyone who cares about energy savings but is too busy to think about their heating and cooling use can be assured that these products have shown they help other busy families.”

Maybe somewhat unsurprisingly, given their history and lofty goals, the Nest Learning Thermostat has become the first smart thermostat to receive an ENERGY STAR rating. According to NEST’s GM for Energy & Safety, Ben Bixby, “After rigorous testing, the EPA has confirmed what we’ve been saying all along: the Nest Thermostat saves energy.”

In fact, Nest provides an interesting angle on the history of ENERGY STAR ratings for smart thermostats that is worth noting. Apparently, the EPA in 2009 actually “took away the ENERGY STAR from all programmable thermostats” claiming that they weren’t confident in the product’s ability to “provide significant energy savings.” Apparently, the EPA considered them to be “too complicated, and most people didn’t use them effectively.” However, Nest has always been proactive about highlighting the many ways in which its products help save energy and money, a move which likely went a long way to helping them become the first smart thermostat to receive the new ENERGY STAR rating.