Now that we have entered May, the thermometers are starting to trend upward. In some regions of the country the cooling season has already started while in more northerly climes the heating season is drawing to a close. At the same time, on Capitol Hill the debate is raging on what measures to take to decrease U.S. energy usage and increase U.S. energy efficiency in the face of climate change. It is remarkable and unfortunate that the Environmental Protection Agency stands ready to throw a wrench into residential consumers' efforts to address and manage as much as 50 percent of their own homes' energy usage.
This morning EPA issued and posted on its website a letter to the public — including manufacturers, distributors, installers, electric utilities, retailers, and other stakeholders in energy efficiency and the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) communities – announcing its intent to sunset the requirements programmable thermostats currently meet to earn the Energy Star label. If you are not familiar with them (then you must still have an old fashioned dial thermostat): a programmable thermostat automates, at your control, the set-ups and set-backs that strike the balance in your household between energy savings and heating/cooling comfort.
According to my understanding of its current plans, EPA intends to require manufacturers and other Energy Star partners to stop using the label on these products and promotional material by the end of the year. What message does this send to consumers, many of whom are growing more energy conscious and are looking for easy ways to reduce their energy use without disrupting their lives?
On its website, Energy Star states, Homeowners can save about $180 a year by properly setting their programmable thermostats and maintaining those settings, which is approximately nine percent of the total heating and cooling bill for an average home. Energy Star also states: As much as half of the energy used in your home goes to heating and cooling. At the same time, in its letter today Energy Star states its inability to "confirm any improvement in terms of the savings delivered by programmable thermostats." How is that for inconsistency? And EPA admits it has not made any assessment of what removal of the Energy Star label will do to energy efficiency efforts by retailers, consumers and others who have invested much in the program. What is clear is that no energy is going to be saved by ending Energy Star labeling for these products. If more data is needed, lets work together to figure out how to get it.
For their part, NEMA manufacturers have been writing new technical requirements for programmable thermostats that should be used as a basis to allow Energy Star lableing of products to continue. In addition, NEMA and other groups have told EPA they want to continue to work with the Agency to maintain this valuable program. We hope a broad stakeholder meeting will be convened next month. But by then, under EPA's schedule, all stakeholders should be taking steps to retreat from the program. Does this make sense to you?
Let's continue the current Energy Star labeling and work together to get new data and new requirements in place to help consumers meet their goals and our country meet its goals for energy savings.