NAD Recommends White-Rodgers Discontinue Certain Claims for Programmable Thermostats, Finds Certain Claims Supported

New York, NY – Oct. 10, 2017  – The National Advertising Division has recommended that White-Rodgers, a division of Emerson Electric Co., discontinue certain claims made in Internet and print advertising and on product packaging for the company’s programmable thermostats. NAD determined, however, that the advertiser could support certain claims.
NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Claims made by White-Rodgers were challenged by Honeywell International Inc., maker of competing programmable thermostats. Challenged claims included:

  • “Universal Compatibility”
  • “Keep more green without turning blue.”
  • “Installs in as little as 15 minutes.”
  • “1 degree accuracy.”
  • “It will keep the room temperature to within +/- 1° F”
  • “Sensi thermostat is the only Wi-Fi Choice in its class that DOES NOT require a 24 VAC power c-wire for most installations.”

NAD also considered whether the advertising at issue implied that White-Rodgers has studies or other scientific evidence demonstrating that its thermostats setpoints and control points operate within one degree of variance; that its thermostats are compatible with all configurations of heating, cooling and heat pump systems and can be installed by all or most consumers within 15 minutes or that other competitors’ connected thermostats, including Honeywell’s, require a 24 VAC (volts of alternating current) c-wire for most installations.

During the course of NAD’s review, the advertiser said it would permanently discontinue the following challenged claims:

  • “Works with virtually any Heating/Cooling Systems including Heat Pumps”
  • “Universal Programmable – Universal, programmable – Replaces any thermostat”
  • “No other Wi-Fi thermostat works with more heating and cooling systems”
  • “Save up to 33% on energy costs”
  • “The Sensi thermostat can help you save up to 30% in energy costs every year when you use a pre-set heating and cooling schedule”
  • “Because 72° should always mean 72°”
  • White-Rodgers is the leader in precision control and has the tightest tolerances in the industry: a single degree”
  • “Smart Comfort. Smarter Savings. Only from White-Rodgers.” 

Following its review of the evidence in the record, NAD determined that the advertiser’s testing, based on industry standard protocols to test the performance of wall-mounted thermostats (such as the Sensi thermostats), provided a reasonable basis for the following claims: “Keep more green without turning blue”; “1 degree accuracy”; “It will keep the room temperature to within +/- 1° F”; and the implied claim that White-Rodgers has scientific studies or evidence demonstrating that its thermostats’ setpoints and control points operate within one degree of variance.

The advertiser argued that “universally compatible” is used widely within the thermostat industry and in other consumer product industries to mean less than absolute coverage of all conceivable systems. The advertiser requested that NAD reconsider its position on the meaning of universally compatible claims. Following its review of the evidence in the record, however, NAD determined that the “universal compatibility” claim with respect to either cooling or heating systems was not supported and recommended that the claim be discontinued.

During the course of the NAD proceeding, the advertiser agreed to modify the originally challenged claim “Installs in 15 minutes” to state “Installs in as little as 15 minutes.”  The voluntarily discontinued claim will be treated, for compliance purposes, as though NAD recommended its discontinuance and the advertiser agreed to comply.

NAD reviewed the modified claim on its merits and determined that the advertiser’s evidence did not support the modified claim and recommended that it be discontinued.

The advertiser also said it would indefinitely discontinue the claim “Sensi thermostat is the only Wi-Fi Choice in its class that DOES NOT require a 24 VAC power c-wire for most installations” (and, by extension, the implied claim that all other competitor’s connected thermostats, including Honeywell’s, require a 24 VAC c-wire for most installations).  Given that the advertiser did not agree to permanently discontinue these claims, NAD reviewed them on their merits.

NAD noted in its decision that at least one of the messages reasonably by that claim is that among Wi-Fi thermostats, the Sensi Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat (UP500W model) is the only one that does not require a 24 VAC c-wire for most installations – in other words, the “class” is “Wi-Fi thermostats” not a specific price class.   NAD recommended that the advertiser modify the first part of the claim to specify the price (sub-$150) to which the Sensi Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat (UP500W model) belongs.

The advertiser clarified that its UP500W model thermostat does not require a c-wire for conventional heating and cooling systems which comprise 80 percent of heating and cooling systems nationwide. NAD determined that the claim that Sensi Wi-Fi Programmable Thermostat (UP500W model) does not require a c-wire for “most installations” portion of the claim was supported.

White-Rodgers, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “is pleased the NAD recognized that some of its claims are substantiated.” Despite its reservations about NAD’s adverse findings, the company said, it “agrees to comply with the NAD’s recommendations.”

Note: A recommendation by NAD to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser’s voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety. It is the policy of NAD not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.