It won’t have escaped your notice that domestic appliances feature labels which advise you of their energy rating. The labels are the result of the EU Directive 92/75/EC which was later replaced by Directive 2010/30/EU. The updated system was applied to labelling from July 2011. White goods in the EU must be sold with the labels clearly displayed. They utilise a simple pictogram to illustrate the energy efficiency of the product and also include useful information such as water consumption and the level of noise emitted.
There is no doubt that the labelling system has proved helpful to consumers and has inspired manufacturers to improve the energy efficiency of their models. But why should you care about energy efficiency and do you fully understand the labelling system?
THE BENEFITS OF ENERGY EFFICIENT APPLIANCES
The impact of human activity on the environment is becoming ever clearer. Energy efficient appliances help to minimise the depletion of the Earth’s natural resources. You might think that your humble washing machine can’t possibly make much of a difference to the environment, whichever one you choose. But just consider how many appliances there are in the UK. The cumulative effect of any energy and water savings are huge.
It is also important to remember that in reducing energy consumption, you will also be minimising your fuel bills. The potential savings may appear to be small in some instances. However, with several appliances in your home, those savings can soon start to add up.
WHAT ARE THE EU ENERGY RATINGS?
When the EU energy rating labels were first introduced, products were simply rated from A to G with A rated appliances being the most energy efficient. The standard pictogram made it simple to identify an appliance’s rating. It became much easier to compare models and to avoid the energy guzzlers. You would think that if you choose the highest rated appliance, you will make the biggest savings. That isn’t necessarily the case. Energy ratings are given to appliances based on their size. This means that a large fridge with the best rating could use more energy than a smaller appliance with a poorer rating. If size matters, you should compare the efficiency of appliances which are of the size that you need. If you don’t require a large appliance, Choose the smallest model you can get away with but one with the best rating amongst the comparable appliances.
To directly compare the energy consumption of the appliances you are interested in, consult the labels in more detail to establish how many Kw per hour the appliances use. You will also see details of water usage and noise levels which may influence your choice.
BETTER THAN A RATED
Following the introduction of the EU energy ratings, advances in technology have resulted in appliances becoming significantly more efficient. This meant that A+, A++ and A+++ grades were introduced for various products to identify the highest performing models. This makes the ratings more difficult to interpret. Each plus sign represents roughly a 10% improvement in energy efficiency.
From 2021, the existing ratings will be phased out for fridges, washing machines and dishwashers in favour of a return to a simple A to G rating system. This is now possible as the improvements in efficiency have meant that products which would be given the worst ratings under the existing system no longer come to market.
Since 2014, to comply with EU regulations, all washing machines are rated from A to A+++. Labels must also include the energy consumption based on a standard cycle and the estimated water consumption. It is worth noting that you can save energy by choosing a shorter and/or cooler cycle.
Washer dryers combine two different functions but their rating up to A+++ encompasses both. This makes it impossible to do a like for like comparison with separate washing machines and tumble dryers.
As tumble dryers use more energy than any other major appliance, it is vital to choose the most efficient model that you can afford. Dryers with the highest rating of A+++ are available but are extremely costly and so you will probably be forced to choose an A++ rated machine at best. As technology advances, the highest rated machines will inevitably become more affordable.
Running the latest dishwashers can be as efficient as washing by hand. The most efficient appliances use less water than the volume of a washing up bowl but to maximise their efficiency, you must wash full loads.
FRIDGES AND FREEZERS (AND FRIDGE-FREEZERS)
Fridges and freezers use a lot of energy, because they’re switched on permanently. These appliances must now have energy ratings between A+ and A+++. The insulating properties of polyurethane foam, the introduction of high-efficiency compressors and better mechanisms for temperature control have led to a significant improvement in the efficiency of cooling appliances.
THE FUTURE OF ENERGY RATINGS
Energy ratings were introduced as recently as 2010 and yet have already been subject to change. Further changes are just around the corner and there will be more in the coming years. The changes have the potential to cause confusion but have been necessary to reflect rapid improvements in technology. While certain aspects of the rating system have proved to be less than ideal, the labels are being adapted over time to ensure that it is easier for consumers to make the right choices.
ENERGY RATINGS AND BREXIT
At the time of writing, it is uncertain when and how the UK will leave the European Union or whether the country will leave at all. Whatever happens, it is likely that appliances sold in the UK will continue to feature the EU energy rating labels. Manufacturers would not welcome having to produce UK-specific labels and there would be little point undertaking the cost of establishing a different system when a perfectly good one already exists.