With the Google buyout of NEST thermostats, attention has turned from the “smart meter” to the thermostat as a focal point of residential energy efficiency. (Read this recent editorial by Alan Meier.) But several years ago Energy Star decided to no longer certify programmable thermostats, since several studies showed that people at home did not take advantage of the thermostat’s programming possibilities. One reason why people didn’t program the thermostats was that programming the devices was too complicated.
Now it is common for thermostats to be programmable and communicating, which means most new thermostats allow the homeowner, utility, or third-party to access the thermostat remotely. Think of people turning up or down their thermostats from their iPhones while riding the subway.
The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) wanted to take a closer look at several of these thermostats to see how efficiently customers use them, what their preferences are, and how users perceive the usefulness of these devices. SMUD commissioned Herter Energy Research Solutions to do a three-day lab study involving 163 users, 26–28 users each of 12 different thermostats.
Which thermostats received the top scores and what features do utility customers look for in a communicating thermostat? You can download for free a copy of the Herter Energy study, “SMUD’s Communicating Thermostat Usability Study” here to find the answers.