Manufacturers have spent millions of pounds in recent years making their fridges, freezers, washing machines and other appliances far more energy efficient. The EU has an energy labelling system that shows how well different items perform. This has been revised in 2010 and new labels replace the old ones — but the idea remains the same. AMDEA has published a handy guide to the new labels, click here to view or download EU Energy Label Guide March 2012
Under the ‘old’ system all categories were rated ‘A’ to ‘G’; but manufacturers’ investment in research and development soon meant that all of the equipment clustered at the very top of the range. The revised system allows more flexibility — with seven grades shown which may start at A or A+++ or somewhere in between. The most energy efficient are still marked with a green arrow, and the least with a red arrow allowing quick comparisons to be made.
The estimated energy use is also shown in figures. This may be for a whole year or for a single cycle or use — but the same measure is used for every product in the category to avoid confusion.
The units used are kWh (costing on average 13p in 2010), so you can do a quick calculation by multiplying the kWh by the number of uses and 13p to get an idea of what the electricity for the unit will cost over a year. Of course the result will only be approximate as the tests are run under laboratory conditions and may not represent how you use appliances in your own home.
The labels also carry information on the amount of water used (if applicable) and the amount of noise the equipment will make when in use.
It is worth noting that decibels are not a linear measurement (ie. 2dB is not twice 1dB) and that a difference of less than 5dB is very difficult for the human ear to distinguish. Noise (or sound pressure) can be confusing as it uses a log scale not a linear one so an increase of just 3dB actually indicates a doubling of the level of noise the appliance makes.
Some of the most energy efficient appliances are awarded the Energy Saving Trust Recommended logo.