The European Energy label was introduced in June 2011 and is now mandatory. It has four 'A' categories, with dark-green A*** being the most energy efficient and red the least efficient.
The biggest users of electricity around the home are white goods - the tumble dryer, the refrigerator and the washing machine. New fridge freezers – provided that they are not American-style – can save up to 50 per cent of the energy use of old machines. Look out for energy labels, and buy an A, A*, A** or A*** rated appliance.
The next greediest device is the television. Generally, power consumption increases with the size of screen, but otherwise there are variations depending on the model and type of screen - whether it is a light-emitting diode (LED), a liquid crystal display (LCD) or plasma flat-screen TV.
Beware of standby, and look out for appliances with low consumption of electricity on standby - there are enormous variations. For example a DVD recorder can use a tenth of the electricity on standby than when it is in use. So if you use your machine 2 hours a day, it may be consuming more electricity on standby than in use. Digital set-top boxes can add around 2% to the electricity consumption of the typical home. Buy one with a low standby power consumption and turn it off at all times when not in use.
European Energy Label (see above)
This is compulsory on fridges and freezers, washing machines, tumble-dryers, dishwashers, air conditioners, electric ovens, lightbulbs, and (from December 2011) televisions. In future other products will also carry this label, including boilers and vacuum cleaners.
Return to an 'A to G' scale
Because most products now cluster in the topmost ratings, in 2015 the European Commission proposed a rescaling of the categories and returning to the traditional 'A to G' rating, together with a new digital database for energy-efficient products. Implementation of this was agreed in 2017, with different timeframes for different products. White goods (e.g. fridges, washing machines, etc.), TVs and lighting appliances will be expected to comply within 15 months, whereas other products such as heaters and boilers may take up to a decade to fall in with the new scale. The new database will contain key information about all registered products, and should be online by 2019.
Of course, Brexit might throw a spanner in the works as far as UK consumers are concerned, although it is expected that EU regulations such as these will be transferred to UK law with little change!
Energy Saving Trust Verified
Products that carry the Energy Saving Trust Verified label have undergone independent verification of performance data, so that consumers can be assured of the manufacturer's claims about energy efficiency and other aspects. The scheme is voluntary, but covers a wide range of products, including not only appliances such as fridges, washing machines and freezers, but also computers, radios, TVs, glazing systems, heating equipment, insulation, and lighting. Search for EST verified products on their website.
This is a voluntary scheme run by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a wide range of appliances that meet certain US energy efficiency standards, including office equipment, heating and cooling, lighting, and commercial equipment. See the Energy Star database for more details.
The EU Energy Star programme was a collaboration with the US government to coordinate energy labelling of office equipment. The agreement expired in February 2018, and the EU database of products is no longer being updated.
See top tips for more information on saving energy with household applicances.