The energy efficiency rating is important for consumers to better understand and compare the efficiency of household appliances. It helps consumers save on electricity consumption by making more sustainable choices. They also raise awareness of energy efficiency and allow us to live in a cleaner world.

The energy efficiency rating used in white goods, which everyone is accustomed to, has changed as of 2021. Changing energy labels had no effect on quality or savings; instead, it resulted in a more effective classification system. The European Union revised the energy label to better meet consumer needs, optimizing the energy efficiency classes and updating the scale from A to G.

What Is The Energy Efficiency Rating?

EU energy labels provide information about the energy efficiency of a product. This energy classification is used in many electrical appliances, from white goods to light bulbs. Labels rate products from dark green (most efficient) to red (least efficient). Labels also show total energy consumption. On digital screens, additional information about screen size is also available. All this information is useful to help consumers make conscious purchase decisions when comparing products.

As of 2021, the energy label rating has started to change. It is critical to understand the logic of new labels and know how to compare products in order to avoid confusion.

European Energy Label

The EU energy label rates products from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient). According to European Union law, this label must be displayed at the point of sale in the following products:

  • Washing machines
  • Tumble dryers
  • Refrigerators, freezers, and deep freezers
  • Dishwashers
  • Electric ovens
  • Televisions and screens
  • Energy-efficient bulbs
  • Air conditioners

Refrigerators and freezers have two additional degrees, such as A+ and A++. Since the end of 2011, new A+, A++, and A+++ energy efficiency classes have been used for refrigerators, washing machines, and dishwashers.

Why Has The Energy Efficiency Rating Changed?

The energy labeling system was first introduced in 1994 and then expanded in 2004. This system, which was implemented to assist consumers in selecting more energy-efficient products, also directed manufacturers to more energy-efficient technologies. Technology has come a long way since then. Modern technology is highly energy efficient compared to what has introduced 20 years ago. Therefore, it became mandatory to change the energy efficiency rating and energy labels.

To overcome these problems, the European Union has planned to replace existing energy labels in March 2021. The process of change officially began across the EU on 1 November 2020. For four months, both energy labels were available on the relevant devices (refrigerators and freezers, washing machines, dishwashers, TVs, and screens).

Initially, the rating scale ranged from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient). However, as manufacturers produced more energy-efficient products than ever before, the most efficient class (A) required additional classes such as A+, A++, and A+++. The rating is rescaled to the A-G scale, which is a much simpler system. For now, the new class A is being left empty in order to improve energy efficiency. This means that a product previously rated A+++ will be rated B in the new system.

The new energy efficiency rating system became valid on 1 March 2021. Confusion was unavoidable after the new system was started to be used, especially during the transition period, when both types of labels were available. Although the transition period has ended and new energy labels have become mandatory, products manufactured before March 1, 2021, may still have old labels. Consumers must be careful to use the same scaling when comparing products. It should also be noted that there are differences between EU labeling (including Norway and Switzerland) and UK labeling.

With the new energy efficiency labels, consumers can easily access the database to get information about the product and the product’s efficiency with a QR code. Instead of maintaining the 1992 criteria, newly created energy efficiency labels have been updated to reflect technological progress.

Class A, the most energy-efficient class of energy labels, was left blank before it could scale future technological progress. That is why there will be no A-labeled refrigerators or washing machines after 2021. This will give manufacturers time to make progress and develop products belonging to higher energy ratings in the coming years. A rescaling will be performed when the top energy classes are not sufficient again, specifically when more than 20% of devices in a particular category are included in the A energy efficiency class. This differentiation makes it easier to identify the most efficient products.

How to Determine The Energy Efficiency Rating?

Energy efficiency ratings are not comparable between different product types because the rating of each device type is calculated using a specific test defined by the EU and compatible with that device. Devices are rated according to their energy consumption in kWh. In other words, the less kWh the device consumes, the more efficient it will be.

What Do Other Labels Mean?

As seen in the product packaging and datasheet, there are many environmental and safety directives that electronic equipment manufacturers must comply with. Other labels used in white goods include:

  • Energy Star: Used in office equipment and indicates that a product meets the EU’s energy efficiency standards.
  • ErP compliance: Refers to the EU-defined requirements for the environmentally sensitive design of energy-consuming products.
  • WEEE: Stands for Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment. Ensures compliance with recycling and disposal procedures.
  • RoHS: Regulates and restricts the use of certain hazardous substances in electronic products.

Developing sustainable, long-lasting, energy saving, and highly recyclable innovative solutions have become increasingly important in recent times. Electronic goods manufacturers have been obliged to develop technologies in accordance with the relevant procedures for both consumer and environmentally friendly solutions. Thus, it is aimed to minimize the damage caused by technology to the world. With increased consumer awareness and rapidly developing technology, it is anticipated that in the near future, positive steps will be taken in terms of both energy efficiency and compliance with other procedures mentioned above, and the concept of ‘clean technology’ will be strengthened.

A recent study conducted as part of the H2020 project CHEETAH researched whether the new energy labeling would be effective. More than 1,000 German consumers were exposed to existing labels, new labels, or both labels at the same time, and consumers’ refrigerator choices were examined through experiments.

The results clearly show that newly scaled energy labels help increase consumer value for the highest-rated devices, and therefore the label change helps to adopt devices with high energy saving levels. However, the study also shows that when both labels are displayed at the same time, as during the transition period, the positive effects of the new energy efficiency rating labels fade, and consumers make their decisions based on the former labels. Therefore, it is recommended that the transition periods of the labels be limited as much as possible for future rescaling work.