The EU introduced energy label ratings in 1995, driving competition and innovation, and possibly even saving you hundreds a year compared with 25 years ago. But now it's getting a makeover in the UK.
From 1 March 2021 a new energy label is in town, which scraps the confusing A+, A++ and A+++ ratings and resets the scale back to A to G.
This is designed to reinvigorate the sustainability race for manufacturers by completely emptying the top A-rating to leave room for improvement.
This will go from A to G (with no more confusing A+++ ratings) and is a clearer reflection of how efficient your appliance is by modern standards.
Interestingly, washer-dryers will now get two ratings, one for washing and one for drying.
This links to the product on the manufacturer's website. Hover the camera on a smartphone over it to open the webpage. It's handy if you need help with your appliance.
Consumption is presented either as kWh per year, kWh per 1,000 hours or kWh per 100 cycles, depending on the product group.
This is a change from the old label, which was often based on an estimated usage over a year. Washing machines' energy consumption, for example, was based on 260 cycles (five washes per week for a whole year).
This will differ depending on the appliance you're buying.
In November, Which? launched the first environmental appliance label in the UK. It's currently on dishwashers and washing machines, with plans to add Eco Buys to more appliances later this year.
To decide if an appliance deserves an Eco Buy, we combine our rigorous testing with the results of our consumer surveys. Only the longest-lasting brands in our annual surveys and only the most efficient appliances, as measured in our independent energy and water use lab tests, make the grade.
You can often see big differences in how much products will cost to run, but you can be sure that Eco Buys use less, so are kinder to both the planet and your bills.
As Eco Buys are based on our testing, you can be sure it's realistic to how you actually use your appliances. For example, our surveys have shown that most use their washing machine at 40u00baC, so we based our testing on that. The official A-G energy rating is mostly based on 60u00baC washes, so doesn't give as good an indication of how efficient it will actually be.
The energy label changes above are part of a change in EU regulation going ahead on 1 March 2021. The UK has decided to stick to the changes for now, butalso has the freedom to go further in future.
That means for tumble dryers, ovens and other electronics missing out on this label change, the UK has the freedom to either join the EU plans to update these in 2022, or make its own changes sooner, later or not at all.
However, in accordance with the Northern Ireland Protocol, EU eco-design and energy labelling will have to continue to apply in Northern Ireland.
Today the EU is also putting in eco-design measures to promote the repairability of products in order to increase their lifespan.
It includes requirements to make spare parts available for a minimum number of years, and that parts can be replaced with the use of commonly available tools - a great step forward to tackling premature obsolescence.
The UK government has committed to matching and even exceeding the EU's eco-design standards. Today the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published a summary of responses to a recent call for evidence on energy-related products.
Michael Briggs, Head of sustainability at Which?, said:
'Our research has found electrical items are often thrown away and end up in landfill due to faults that are either costly or impossible to fix, so it is positive that manufacturers will now be required to ensure spare parts for some products are available. The next step is for the government to expand this to cover more appliances and ensure the parts are available throughout the lifespan of each product.
'As the market for smart appliances continues to grow, it is also important that these appliances continue to receive vital security updates to ensure continued functionality.
'We support the government's ambition to meet or even exceed the current standards on sustainable design and better labelling, so look forward to its further announcements on the repairability, recyclability and durability of products.