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Blog Post Thursday 15 February 2018

Understanding Electricity Energy Rating Labels on Household Appliances

Understanding Electricity Energy Rating Labels on Household Appliances

Chances are most of us have seen the star labels that come with every common electrical appliance that we buy for our home. We know that more stars mean more energy efficiency, and that more efficiency means a smaller electricity bill. But, how is this electrical energy efficiency measured? And what’s the real difference between 6 stars and 10 stars? Here you’ll find all the information you need in order to make a savvy decision when it comes to buying your next electrical home appliance.

What are energy efficiency ratings?

Electricity energy ratings are a Federal Government initiative, introduced to New South Wales and Victoria in 1986. Nowadays mandatory throughout Australia, this practice is designed to help consumers by displaying an energy rating for appliances on a 6 star scale, typically, and a 10 star scale for more efficient appliances. Star ratings can come be whole or half-star. Their energy efficiency is defined by the energy service per unit of energy consumption - basically, the lower the energy consumption per unit of energy service, the higher the star rating. This way, customers are able to know how efficient the appliance they want to buy will be.

You’ll commonly see the energy efficiency label displayed on TVs, washing machines, dryers, fridges and freezers, dishwashers, computer monitors and air conditioners. And as market demand for these products increase, manufacturers will be encouraged to produce more energy efficient appliances to meet this demand.

Why is energy efficiency important?

Saving on energy is important, both for your wallet and the environment. This is especially true when we consider that 33% of your household energy consumption comes from the use of common electrical appliances, such as the fridge, TV, dishwasher, washing machine, amongst others. These appliances are also responsible for 45% of the house’s greenhouse gas emissions. The benefit of energy-efficient appliances is that they use less electricity to achieve the same level of performance to similar models, with the same size and capacity.  

How to read the energy efficiency label

The energy rating label on the appliance is there to help you compare how much electricity the product uses against other appliances. The label is also an incentive for manufacturers to improve the energy performance of household appliances. While its high star-rated models can cost a little more to buy, choosing a cheaper product with fewer stars could end up costing you more in the long run, i.e. when you get your electricity bill next quarter. This is also known as "the second price tag".

Energy-efficiency labels are quite easy to read. The more stars, the more efficient the appliance is compared to other models in its category. They also show an energy consumption figure that gives an estimate of how much energy the appliance uses each year. The lower the figure, the more efficient it is. In addition, there are two types of labels: 6-star and 10-star. The 10-star label is reserved only for those appliances that have a rating of 7 stars + and are very energy efficient.

About energy consumption

So how is the energy consumption of a certain appliance calculated? Star ratings are calculated using algorithms defined by the Australian and New Zealand Standards that measure energy consumption and performance. And as appliances become more efficient, these algorithms are forced to shift in order to incorporate the new criteria. This is how the 10-star rating system was created, as before, only 6-star existed.

The label actually provides an estimate of how much energy, in kilowatt-hours, will be used in a year. This is based on assumptions related to average usage, so the actual energy consumption ultimately depends on how the appliance is used and how often it is used. Factors such as climate can also have a big influence on energy consumption and efficiency for some appliances.

In addition, energy consumption and size of the product are also related. For example, for a computer monitor, its efficiency is related to its screen size.

Generally, the energy consumption assumptions are:

  • TV and computer monitor = 10 hours use + 14 hours in standby per day    
  • Fridge and freezer = in use 24 hours per day
  • Dryer = 1 load per week
  • Dishwasher = 7 uses per week in the basic setting
  • Washing machine = 7 uses per week using with a warm wash setting

Every electrical appliance has an electricity energy rating, which, via a label, shows us how much energy those typical household appliances use to function. This policy is a handy one, because by informing us on energy consumptions levels, we can make an informed decision when we buy a product. Bottom line is, the more efficient an appliance is, the cheaper your electricity bill will be, and the less greenhouse gas emissions you’ll contribute to the environment. So while these efficient appliances can seem pricier to buy, they can turn out to be cheaper in the long run.