Energy labels explained Washing machine energy labels

Washing machine display

All washing machines must now be at least A-rated for energy efficiency

As of 2014, washing machines can only be rated A+++ (most energy efficient), A++, A+ or A (least energy efficient). These labels offer shoppers an at-a-glance idea of how much energy and water a machine typically uses, and the upgraded labels reflect the increasingly energy-efficient nature of washing machines.

However, you may still see some older models for sale using the old EU ratings, which ranged from A+++ to D. 

And we have seen one manufacturer claim an energy efficiency rating of A+++++, but this is not recognised by the EU energy label legislation and can essentially be seen as a marketing gimmick.

All of our washing machine reviews contain a star rating for water and energy use, calculated as part of our rigorous lab testing. Which? members can log in to see the reviews. If you're not yet a member, try Which? for £1 for access to this and all our other online content.

Energy ratings for washing machines

Manufacturers are making increasingly energy and water-efficient laundry appliances. This is good news for the environment, but with many new models carrying the same rating, it can be difficult to work out which ones are more energy efficient than others.

Unfortunately, extreme energy efficiency is not always a good thing for you as a consumer: some of the washing machines we've tested that use the smallest amount of electricity and water also produce the worst results. A washing machine needs to balance good cleaning with relatively low energy and water use. 

Check that the model you're interested in is a Best Buy washing machine before parting with your cash.

How the EU energy ratings are calculated

A washing machine's energy-efficiency rating is calculated by measuring kilowatt hours (kWh) used annually by the machine, based on its performance on full and partial 60°C cotton loads and a 40°C partial cotton load.

However, there is no requirement for a washing machine to actually reach 60°C. This might not matter to you - see should I wash at 60°C? to find out if you're not sure - but if it does, you may be interested to learn that some models get nowhere near 60°C even when you've chosen a 60°C wash cycle. In fact, one Hoover model we tested only reached 43°C on its 60°C cycle.

Temperatures aside, you'll also find other information on a washing machine's energy label, including annual water consumption (in litres), capacity (in kilograms), spin drying efficiency class (rated from A to G) and noise emission (for partial and full loads, in decibels).

The labels don’t include information on washing performance any more, because all models with a capacity of more than 4kg must achieve an A rating.

If you're choosing between two washing machines that each have the same energy label, take a closer look at the energy consumption figure quoted on the energy label and make sure you cross-reference this with Which? test lab scores for energy consumption.

How Which? tests washing machine efficiency

Which? believes it's important to test products in the same way that people actually use them on a day-to-day basis - which is why we use a different method from the EU to calculate washing machine energy efficiency in our tests. 

We test on 40ºC normal cotton and synthetic programs, two of the most popular washing machine cycles, to reflect the way you use your machine. This helps us to collect more realistic energy and running costs data. 

Choosing a washing machine scoring four stars or more for water use and energy use will ensure you're getting a particularly efficient model - you can filter the results using our compare features and prices tool. But also use our results to make sure you're getting a machine that cleans well.

You can also compare initial buying costs with lifetime running costs by using our washing machine cost calculator.

More on this...