• The Smart Home
  • EPA
  • Home Energy Management
  • ENERGY STAR

Government and Industry Stakeholders Move Ahead with a New SHEMS Standard

Neil Strother
May 07, 2019

Smart Home

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is moving closer to a standard specification for smart home energy management systems (SHEMS) that could have a watershed effect on the market. Officials with the EPA’s ENERGY STAR program and industry stakeholders have been working together for nearly a year to define a combination of smart devices and services that could boost home energy savings.

The program's framers have several aspects in mind to achieve greater energy savings in homes, including a focus on occupancy sensing and a flexibility to adapt in an evolving market. Specifically, the program has the following intents:

  • Energy and cost savings, as well as convenience, are achieved as the program recognizes smart home system packages. This is done by providing reliable vacancy detection linked to savings strategies that shut off or power down equipment when no one is home, limiting standby power of connected devices, and offering feedback to users about the energy impact of their settings.
  • The program is expected to evolve with a rapidly changing market

The proposed program has momentum, according to Taylor Jantz-Sell, a co-leader of the ENERGY STAR effort. As she told me recently, industry leaders in this space, such as device manufacturers and home-automation service providers, are “excited there is going to be a way for them to latch onto our well recognized brand and promote their services and enhance their service in the energy management space.”

Status of the HEM Market

Currently, the HEM market is somewhat adrift. Consumers have been willing to buy smart home devices in significant volumes (as noted in Navigant Research’s report, The Smart Home), like smart thermostats and connected lighting. But often, consumers have only vague notions of the energy savings potential from these products and services, which are typically based on what a vendor might say in marketing messages. There is an overall lack of baseline measurements for comparing the likely energy savings from a range of smart home products and services.

This EPA ENERGY STAR program aims to address this issue. “By providing a national platform for smart energy management that is scalable, customizable, and can be leveraged by a variety of stakeholders, we hope to foster increasingly effective methods of smart home energy management,” says a recent letter from Jantz-Sell and her co-leader, Abigail Daken, that announced the release of draft version 1 of SHEMS.

Next Step for SHEMS

The next step in the process is for all stakeholders to review a draft version 2 of the program in June. Once that version is reviewed (and presumably accepted), a final version is expected in August. After that, the new standard could be ready for launch by ENERGY STAR and industry stakeholders before the end of 2019 or perhaps early 2020.

This joint public-private effort to define smart home energy management is a welcome step. It should help the market flourish, though there are likely to be bumps along the way given the complexities of homes, the many devices and services involved, and the many ways people consume energy. Nonetheless, it is a step in the right direction. For any stakeholders (including utilities) not now involved, this proposed program should be the catalyst for getting on board.