Over the last 20 years, EPA’s ENERGY STAR Certified Homes program has worked with builders to construct more than 1.6 million better, more energy efficient, homes. Tried-and-true strategies like air sealing and increased insulation form the core of our program, but we’re always looking for emerging technologies that will cost-effectively raise the bar on efficiency. 

Some emerging technologies, like the LED light bulbs I discussed in the last article, brighten homes while using less energy. Others, like connected thermostats, take a different approach by simply better managing a home’s energy use. These next-generation thermostats will offer even more automated features (and higher potential savings) with a less complex setup. 

Traditional thermostats are a little like old VCRs. They were great for recording one show at a time as long as you sat there pressing the record and stop buttons. Anything beyond that quickly got complicated! Then, DVRs came along and transformed the way shows were recorded. The DVR learned your preferences and allowed you to record all your favorite shows on time, and all with minimal input. 

Connected thermostats have the same potential. Some, like the Nest model pictured above, can learn what temperature keeps homeowners comfortable day and night, on weekdays and on weekends, in all seasons. Some factor in changing weather forecasts. Some even determine how long it takes a home to heat up and cool off, so they can turn on at just the right time. And, when comfort won’t be missed, such as when homeowners are at work, on vacation, or fast asleep, these thermostats can give the heating and cooling system a break, saving energy, money, and wear. Plus, homeowners can control their heating and cooling preferences from a smart phone, whether at home or away. 

Now, each of these thermostats works a bit differently. That’s why EPA is working on a specification that details product requirements so soon consumers will know which connected thermostats demonstrate the rigorous savings potential necessary to earn the Energy Star certification. By this time next year, builders should start to see some thermostats sold with the little blue Energy Star label.

What builder wouldn’t want to have customers who are both comfortable and saving more money than expected? Just like DVRs rendered VCRs nearly obsolete, I expect we’ll eventually say goodbye to today’s clunky, tedious temperature controls.

Click here to learn more about the draft specification for ENERGY STAR connected thermostats, visit . And to learn how you can earn recognition and build better homes with ENERGY STAR, visit www.energystar.gov/homes.