In 2009, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discontinued the labeling of programmable thermostats as Energy Star products. However, this past June, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) introduced a new labeling and certification program for thermostats. Called Energy Aware, the program states on its website that it is “intended to assist distributors, contractors, installers, and homeowners in choosing programmable thermostat models that will best meet individual and family needs to manage and reduce energy usage while maintaining comfortable indoor temperatures.”

William Hoyt, industry director for NEMA, explained that the association created this labeling program in response to industry demand, particularly in the commercial contractor sector. “Contractors have been going back to the manufacturers and asking what is going to replace EnergyStar,” he said. “As an industry, we felt we wanted to continue to have product differentiation in the marketplace, where it would be easy to identify products that are tested to a certain quality standard.”

He added that one weakness of the former Energy Star program for thermostats was its self-certification.

“We want to go beyond that,” Hoyt said. To participate in NEMA’s Energy Aware program, manufacturers will have to submit their thermostats for testing by ISO-certified labs. The thermostats will be tested to NEMA’s ANSI-recognized standard NEMA DC3, Annex A-2010, “Energy-Efficiency Requirements for Programmable Thermostats.”

Hoyt said that the testing program is expected to be in place this fall, and NEMA will allow OEMs and other manufacturers that are not members of the association to participate in the testing and labeling program through a licensing agreement.

In an effort to make it easy for manufacturers to join the NEMA program, the new Energy Aware logo is similar in size and shape to the Energy Star logo that was formerly placed on thermostats.

At present, no consumer awareness campaign has been developed for the new Energy Aware label, but NEMA has created a website to educate consumers about the new label:

Hoyt said NEMA will estimate the savings available to consumers: “If it’s used according to the presets (and not on override), depending on the size of the home, energy savings can run anywhere from $180 to $300 per year.”

Publication date: 09/20/2010