Which Communicating Thermostats are Consumers Most Likely to Use?

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.

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Comment by Steven Lewis on March 10, 2014 at 9:49am

Just read the report in more detail.  The Trane Thermostat they evaluated has been replaced and there is newer Thermostat, actually several that are touch screen, that eliminate most of the objections on the thermostat.  I just installed three thermostats and the owners likes them very much.  They can be operated by themselves or with a bridge to connect to the internet.  Allows for a lot of control and expansion of the systems to meet other needs.

Comment by Eric Kjelshus on March 10, 2014 at 9:37am

I have used 17 Ecobee stats as of late I am very happey  with them.   If turn on the boiler as 2nd stage heat with heat pump it tells me there is to much back up heat and gives a sound so I had to put in a extra stat to keep the alarm off

Comment by Steven Lewis on March 10, 2014 at 9:07am

I have used and own several of the Nexia thermostats used by Trane.  Like them very much and they can be expanded to include light switches, door locks, cameras and other security alarms.  Not really a security system but works very well as a Home Monitoring system.

Comment by Carlos on March 10, 2014 at 8:52am

I hope Google make something good in the programmable thermostats field: easy to program (through an app for example) and affordable.



Comment by Bob Blanchette on March 9, 2014 at 9:10am

I've had my Carrier ComfortChoice Touch for a little over a year now, nice thermostat for sure. There are a couple of cons, a big one is no AUX/EMER/2nd Stage indicator. Having the setpoint listed on the the "sleep screen" would have been a nice feature. Not having to push the info button to get energy pricing info would be another nice feature.

The Energate Pioneer Z100 has all of the above features but has issues of it's own. A big one is the use of min on/off times instead of CPH or temp difference to control cycle rates. Setting a "permanent hold" to use the thermostat in "manual mode" is difficult.

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