The self-regulated arm of the advertising industry has recommended that Nest Labs modify or discontinue some of its claims about the Nest programmable thermostat.
The National Advertising Division (NAD) made the suggestions after being prompted by Honeywell. Honeywell also sued Nest last year, claiming it was infringing on a range of patents. Nest, founded by Apple alums, is a media darling as far as thermostats go. While some other companies in the market begrudgingly appreciate the visibility Nest has brought to the capabilities of next-generation thermostats, Honeywell is instead fighting the startup.
NAD said in a press release that the advertiser had already discontinued some claims, including the claim that it “can automatically lower air-conditioning costs up to 30%,” as well as exclusivity claims regarding its “System Match,” “Filter Reminders” and “Built-in Level” features.
But there are more issues NAD is concerned with. One issue is how Nest characterized the low rates of homeowners who actually program their programmable thermostats. Referencing data from Lawrence Berkeley National laboratory, Nest claims “Only 11 percent of [other] programmable thermostats are programmed to save energy.”
But the data says that 89 percent of Americans rarely or never program their thermostats. However, Nest’s claims go as far as to suggest the reasons for the lack of programming, including “They’re so complicated that most people don’t bother to program them” and “Other thermostats waste energy.”
The other advertising claims NAD examined included:
- “Most thermostats waste 20% of your heating and cooling bill. Nest stops the waste.”
- Nest’s “Airwave” feature “automatically lower[s] air conditioning costs up to 30%” and “cuts AC runtime up to 30%.
- “Nest works in 95% of homes with lower voltage systems.”
- “Adding a common C wire is not required in 99% of [Nest] installations.”
- There are a number of features advertised as being “exclusive” to the Nest programmable thermostat: works with multiple system types (e.g., forced air, radiant, heat pump, etc.), adjusts heat pump systems to balance efficiency and comfort, adjusts radiant heat systems to give a predictable schedule and even heat, turns heat on “early” to have temperature adjust to pre-set level by pre-set time, and more.
What’s at stake is a newfound interest on the part of homeowners to replace their first-generation programmable thermostats with next-generation wireless thermostats that can be remotely controlled from smartphones and tablets. Nest and Honeywell are hardly the only players. Radio Thermostat of America, Carrier, ecobee, LockState, and Venstar are just some of the manufacturers offering wireless thermostats at major retailers.
There are also a host of other companies offering the energy management software that runs on the hardware, including EcoFactor, EnergyHub and Tendril. It’s not just pure-play HVAC companies offering energy controls either; alarm companies, telecoms and big-box stores are all looking for a piece of the action.
As for the advertising claims, Nest disagreed with some of the recommendations, but “intends to modify its advertising.”