Energy Efficiency Labels Explained

EU energy labels are found on a selection of appliances and are designed to help you see how energy efficient a model is before you part with your hard-earned cash. But what exactly do energy ratings mean and what does an energy label tell you about a particular item?

EU energy manufacturer modelWe should know by now that an ‘A’ rating is the best and a ‘G’ rating is the worst. But this doesn’t tell us how much better or worse each rating is. It’s more useful to work out how much better one product is from another.

Products carrying an EU energy label

  • Washing machines, washer-dryers and tumble dryers
  • Fridges, freezers and fridge freezers
  • Dishwashers
  • Electric ovens
  • Energy-saving light bulbs
  • Air conditioners

How energy efficiency ratings are calculated

Each energy rating is calculated using a specific test, so energy ratings aren’t comparable across different products. The labelling system is designed to give you a good at-a-glance evaluation of how energy efficient a product is.

Using energy efficiency ratings to work out which product is the most energy efficient is less straightforward – particularly when many products receive the same energy rating, or if the rating is calculated in a way that does not necessarily reflect how people use a product in real-life.

How you use your product will also determine how much energy it uses. Fridges and freezers are on for 24 hours a day and are the hardest-working appliance in your kitchen.

How to read an energy efficiency label

Products in the darkest green category are the most energy efficient. Dark green rated products use less energy, so help you to lower your energy bills and CO2 emissions. The ‘A’ rating used to be the highest but now there are A+, A++ or even A+++ ratings. Eco labels have had to be updated several times to try and compensate for the fact that almost every washing machine ended up with an A rating, making the system somewhat redundant.

The Kilowatt tab tells you how much electricity the product used in kilowatt hours (kWh) and allows you to cross-compare. The lower the figure, the less energy it will use. The amount of energy and money you save depends on how you use the product and your energy tariff and company. It’s a good idea to make sure you’re getting the best deal on your electricity using a price comparison tool.

The icons on the bottom of the label depend on the product type and will give you additional information, such as washing machine capacity or noise. Go shopping for a new appliance equipped with a rough idea of what’s good, bad and average.

If you’re comparing two A-rated appliances, be sure to look at the energy consumption calculation to find out which one uses the least electricity.

Energy saving tips

• Run your washing machine and dishwasher with full loads

• Switch off lights when you’re not in the room

• Don’t leave your appliances on standby

• Use economy and low temperature settings

• Ensure your fridges and freezers are installed away from cookers and other sources of heat

Sam Travers is an eco-warrior of sorts. He works for a green charity and blogs regularly with help and advice for those looking to make the planet a better place.