EU energy efficiency labels
EU energy labels have become a common sight in home appliance showrooms - they're found on a selection of white goods and other products and are designed to help customers see how energy efficient a model is before they buy.
But what exactly does an energy label tell you about a particular item? We've been taking a closer look at how appliances are awarded an energy-efficiency rating, how you can compare models and what you should look for when you're out shopping.
How energy efficiency ratings are calculated
Energy ratings aren't comparable across different products, because each is calculated using a specific test defined by the EU and appropriate to that appliance.
An EU energy label can give you a good at-a-glance evaluation of how energy efficient a product is. But using it to decipher which product is the most energy efficient on the market is less straightforward - particularly when a large number of models receive the same energy rating, or if the rating is calculated in a way that's not representative of how people use a product in real-life.
Energy efficiency label shopping tips
- All of the above products are legally obliged to display energy efficiency information at the point of sale - if you can't see it, ask for it.
- If you're comparing two A-rated appliances, look more closely at the energy consumption calculation data found on the label to find which of the two uses the least electricity.
- Some of the detail found within the label itself can be handy - such as washing machine capacity or noise - if you go equipped with a rough idea of what's good, bad and average. Refer to the product-specific pages within this guide for more information.
The future of energy labelling
In order to keep up with energy efficiency developments and innovations, the EU has introduced new energy labels and ratings. The changes include:
- New A+, A++ and A+++ energy ratings for fridges, washing machines, dishwashers and tumble dryers - the new labels were launched on a voluntary basis from December 2010 and became compulsory for all new models to carry by December 2011.
- An A to G energy labelling system - which will look similar to the labels found on other household products - for televisions was launched at the end of 2010 for use on a voluntary basis. It was made compulsory for all new models to carry by 30 November 2011 (the labels are additionally due to change to A+ to F from 2014).
- Re-calibrated refrigeration energy ratings to make it more difficult for models to score an A+ rating from July 2014.
- Energy labels for more products including vacuum cleaners, boilers, windows and shower heads - we'll keep this guide updated as the full plans are unveiled.
Fridge and freezer energy labels
Under EU legislation, every new fridge, freezer and fridge freezer sold in the UK must have an energy label (pictured right) that gives its energy rating. Since 1 July 2012, all new models must have a rating of A+, A++ or A+++. Retailers can still sell stocks of older models so you may still see A or B rated fridges or freezers in the shops.
If you bought your refrigerator before July 2012 it could have an A rating, and if it was made before September 1999 it could be rated anything from A to G, with a much higher energy use than is allowed today.
The new labels also show information on storage volume (in litres), frozen storage volume (in litres) and noise level (in decibels).
How the EU energy ratings are calculated
EU energy ratings are determined using an index which compares energy consumption with the appliance’s internal volume, to show how efficient it is for its size. This means two different-sized fridges, for example, could still carry the same energy rating.
Energy consumption is measured with the outside room temperature at 25°C and when the fridge and/or freezer is partly full, to simulate how the appliance is used. Internal volume is measured with all of the drawers, shelves, trays and any water dispenser in place.
Energy ratings for washing machines
Manufacturers are making increasingly energy and water-efficient laundry appliances. This is good news for the environment, but with many new models carrying the same rating, it can be difficult to work out which ones are more energy efficient than others.
Unfortunately, extreme energy efficiency is not always a good thing for you as a consumer: some of the washing machines we've tested that use the smallest amount of electricity and water also produce the worst results. A washing machine needs to balance good cleaning with relatively low energy and water use.
How the EU energy ratings are calculated
A washing machine's energy-efficiency rating is calculated by measuring kilowatt hours (kWh) used annually by the machine, based on its performance on full and partial 60°C cotton loads and a 40°C partial cotton load.
However, there is no requirement for a washing machine to actually reach 60°C. This might not matter to you. To find out if you're not sure but if it does, you may be interested to learn that some models get nowhere near 60°C even when you've chosen a 60°C wash cycle. In fact, one Hoover model we tested only reached 43°C on its 60°C cycle.
Temperatures aside, you'll also find other information on a washing machine's energy label, including annual water consumption (in litres), capacity (in kilograms), spin drying efficiency class (rated from A to G) and noise emission (for partial and full loads, in decibels).
The labels don’t include information on washing performance any more, because all models with a capacity of more than 4kg must achieve an A rating.
Energy ratings for dishwashers
The EU energy label found on all new dishwashers at the point of sale provides a good indication of how much energy and water a model typically uses.
All dishwashers are graded A+++ to D for energy efficiency, with A+++ being the most efficient and cheapest to run. But if you bought your dishwasher before 2011, it could be rated as low as G and add a lot of money to your energy bill.
The EU energy rating is determined by testing the energy consumed washing a collection of soiled tableware and dishes using the standard cycle recommended by the manufacturer. The cleaning, rinsing and drying performance are also evaluated.
The energy efficiency of the dishwasher is expressed in kilowatt hours per year. The label also shows figures for annual water consumption (litres), drying efficiency (a rating of A to G), capacity (in place settings) and noise emission (decibels).
New dishwasher energy efficiency ratings were introduced in 2012 and go up to A+++
Energy ratings for tumble dryers
Electric tumble dryers are given a rating between A+++ for the most efficient, and G for the least efficient appliances. The rating is determined using a standardised test where each product is measured for its energy use during a cotton drying cycle.
In 2012, energy labels were introduced for gas tumble dryers.