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How to read energy efficiency labels and save money

Defra, the government agency in charge of environmental affairs, has launched a campaign to promote new energy labelling rules for electrical products. These new labels are aimed at making it easier for consumers to understand how green their products are.

Energy used in our homes are responsible for over a quarter of all UK emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas causing climate change. Making our homes as energy efficient as possible will reduce carbon emissions and could also save us on average £250 a year on our fuel bills. Energy efficient appliances are easy to find and aren’t necessarily more expensive. Look out for appliances that carry the labels (detailed below) to save money and energy:

Buy energy efficient appliances – Running costs matter

When you’re buying new appliances, think about the running costs as well as the purchase price. A small monthly saving from a more efficient appliance could add up to a substantial saving over its lifetime.

Smaller appliances use less energy

Look for the smallest product for your needs to cut energy consumption and protect the environment. Two different sized fridges can have the same efficiency rating, but generally, the smaller one will use less energy and cost less to run.

Ditch unnecessary features

Some appliances have unnecessary features that use up extra electricity. For instance, some kettles have lights or ‘keep warm’ functions. Try to avoid these if you’re looking to save energy.

Energy Labels

You can find energy labels on many household electrical goods when you buy them. By law a manufacturer must show how energy efficient a product is and how much electricity it uses per year.

The labels show the energy rating for each product, so you can compare the energy each one uses, and see how efficient it is.

How do I choose the most energy efficient product?

The ratings are colour coded – dark green is the highest rating, and red is the lowest. The ratings usually go from A to G, with A being the most energy efficient and G being the least but you may also find higher categories of A+, A++ and A+++ as products become more efficient. For the most efficient product always choose the darkest green band.

Is the most energy efficient product the cheapest to run?

The larger the product, the more energy it uses – a 32” TV will be more energy hungry than a 19” one, so although it might be an A rated product it will still be more expensive to run.
To find the cheapest product to run you need to look at the part of the label that shows the KW/h per annum rating – this will show you how much energy (in Kilowatts) that a product uses per year.

So you should think about how big a machine you need and find the highest rated product in that category.

Identifying your labels

European Energy Label

The European Energy Label shows how efficiently a product uses energy and is compulsory on these products:

  • household fridges and freezers
  • washing machines, tumble dryers and washer-dryers
  • dishwashers
  • air conditioners
  • electric ovens
  • light bulbs
  • televisions (from December 2011)

The new labels on televisions are being introduced on a voluntary basis from 20 December 2010. From December 2011 all new television sets must carry an energy efficiency label.

More products will have the European Energy Label in the future, including boilers and vacuum cleaners.

Energy Saving Trust Recommended

The Energy Saving Trust Recommended scheme is voluntary and shows you a product is very energy efficient.

The wide range of products covered includes:

  • appliances like washing machines and fridges
  • light fittings
  • boilers and hot water cylinders
  • insulation
  • glazing
  • televisions

The scheme is managed by the Energy Saving Trust.

European Ecolabel

The European Ecolabel is given to products that are less harmful to the environment than other similar products – and this includes using less energy.

TCO label

There are several different TCO labels. All of them show that IT equipment is energy efficient and made with fewer harmful chemicals.

All equipment must:

  • contain fewer materials that can be a risk to the environment and human health – certain substances, like lead, are banned
  • be energy efficient
  • be easily recyclable – for example, by making different plastics easy to separate out
  • be produced in a way that reduces its impact on the environment
  • give a spare part guarantee to encourage a longer life for the product
  • be produced by a manufacturer that actively works to improve workers’ conditions

The scheme is managed by the Energy Saving Trust.

Some of the labels also tell you a product has very good picture quality, low noise levels, and low electrical and magnetic fields.

Energy Star

The EU (European) Energy Star scheme is voluntary. It shows that office equipment has reached energy efficiency standards set by the EU, both when being used and in standby mode.

The logo appears on some types of office equipment, like:

  • computers
  • monitors
  • printers
  • fax machines

Energy Performance Certificates

All homes bought, sold or rented have an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC).
EPCs contain:

  • information on a home’s current energy use and carbon dioxide emissions
  • an estimate of how energy efficient a home could be if you put in place energy saving measures, like fitting loft insulation
  • a report with suggested ways to reduce energy use and carbon dioxide emissions

Homes are rated from A (the most efficient) to G (the least efficient), with the average efficiency grade to date being D. All homes are measured using the same calculations, so it’s easy to compare the energy efficiency of different properties.