If you have been out shopping for any white goods recently, then you will probably have come across the little coloured Energy Rating stickers, stuck on the front of Washing Machines, Fridge Freezers, Dishwashers and Tumble Dryers. These are a relatively new concept, and are supposed to indicate how efficient an electrical appliance is, in relation to its electricity usage and the cost to actually run it.
The appliance energy rating sticker, indicates just how energy efficient the appliance is, using a sliding scale similar to a bargraph, ratings are given between the letter ‘A’ and ‘G’ and the appliance is graded with a letter depending on how much Electricity is consumed in a given period or cycle.
‘A’ is deemed to indicate the most energy efficient appliance, with ‘G’ being the least energy efficient – with ‘G’ being the type of white goods where the four horsemen of the green energy apocalypse will hunt you down and take the fuse out of your Electric Blanket if you dare connect ‘g’ rated white goods to the mains supply!.
But how accurate are these appliance energy ratings in real, everyday terms?, and on what exactly are they based and are they misleading in any way?. Perhaps they don’t tell us the entire story and perhaps sometimes we should look behind those little coloured labels containing the first seven letters of the alphabet and judge for ourselves.
For a start, these appliance energy ratings, originate from Europe in yet another step on its constant tireless quest to save energy. Often a fact enough to set most consumers’ teeth on edge!, and like most European legislation, it aims to make us more energy aware by replacing old appliances more frequently, and this often comes at a price of course!.
Not surprisingly, the most energy efficient white goods, carrying ‘A’ ratings are also sold by the manufacturers at the most expensive prices, and its not unusual to see ‘A’ rated washing machines carrying a price tag which is £150+ more than a similar appliance, carrying a ‘C’ energy rating, but is the difference between an ‘A’ rating and a ‘C’ rating really worth the difference in price?, is it really that important and just how different is an ‘A’ rated appliance compared to a lower graded appliance?.
Well, some of these energy ratings are a bit of a misnomer. For example, I recently purchased a Tumble Dryer to replace a ten year old model which had served me well but had finally given up the ghost. My old tumble dryer had a 2200 watt element which heated the drum and dried the clothes, this tumble dryer consumed around 2 units (2 kw/h) of electricity per hour, allowing for the built in thermostat to operate and cycle the heating element. On average this tumbe dryer took around one hour to reasonably dry a 4kg load of washing.
I noticed that my new tumble dryer, carried an energy rating of ‘C’, a quick look at the instruction manual also told me that its energy rating was 1000 watts for the heating element, a reduction of less than half of the energy consumed by the 2200w element of its predecessor. At first I thought, Great!, it will cost around 50% less to run, and i’m set to save some money from my Electricity Bill.
However, when I actually came to use this Tumble Dryer, I found that instead of one hour to dry a 4kg load, it took nearly 2 hrs and 30 mins!, which was more than double the amount of time.
It soon became obvious, that with less than half of the energy input of the older the model, the newer dryer took more than double the amount of time to produce the same amount of heat and input it into the clothes in order to dry them, and so in essence running an appliance with half of the energy rating, actually took twice as long to do the same job and effecitively cost me exactly the same as the older model to dry the same clothes. So I saved nothing in real terms, however it came with the added annoyance that it took over twice as long to dry a load of washing. I found myself wishing that I had paid for the repair of my old tumble dryer!.
I guess that in my case, the manufacturer of my new tumble dryer had halved the power consumption of the heating element to applease the European Greenies, effectively also reducing its usable heat output by half. However by reducing the energy consumption (wattage) of the actual appliance, they had managed to obtain a reasonable ‘C’ rating, which they may not have been able to do, if they had used a heating element with a higher electricity consumption.
However in doing this, they had forgot to mention that with the reduced element output power, it would take a lot longer to dry the washing than a more powerful model, effectively costing the same in how much Electricity was used!. So no saving for me, in real terms, but the ‘C’ rating looks good, and I guess it is also good marketing as it sells appliances!.
I found pretty much the same thing with a new Washing Machine too, and all new models of washers, seem to only have a cold fill facility, as opposed to the dual cold and hot fill washing machines of yesterday. For me, and probably most households this is frustrating, as I routinely heat a full tank of hot water everyday for domestic purposes, thus there would be plenty of hot water all heated and paid for and available for the washing machine to use. Unfortunately with these new washing machines, they will fill with cold water from the mains, and then use an electric immersion heater to heat the water in the drum from cold, despite there being a 120 litre copper tank full of water already heated!.
I’m trying to figure out, exactly how cold fill washing machines are energy efficient, when they are needlessly heating hot water from cold, in households where domestic hot water is already heated and available. Electricity is one of the most expensive ultilities available, and anybody with a Gas or even oil fired domestic combi boiler will save money by heating the water for the washing machine, rather than have the built in immersion heater in the machine do it for them. It seems to fly entirely in the face of, and make a mockery of the whole green energy policy.
So perhaps the Energy Rating labels are more about being a gimmick with little substance, perhaps aiming to boost retail sales and kick start the appliance industry by convincing the consumer that they should replace their old applainces with new ones, in the interests of saving the earth!. After all, the most energy efficient appliances, are often the most expensive, isn’t it funny how it always seems to be like that in the world of retail!.
There are some positive points of buying new appliances though, for example in the case of Fridge Freezers, technology may have evolved in the design of the cooling mechanism and insulation technology used within the fridge freezer cabinet, making them less prone to leak into the warmer room, and holding the cold temperature for far longer, essentially saving energy. So if you have a fridge freezer that is older than five years, then it may be advantageous to replace it with a more newer model.
Tv sets are also another area where energy saving technology has been utilised, especially in Plasma Television sets, where a typical large screen plasma tv uses around 30% less electricity than a plasma model made three to five years ago!. Stand by consumption has also been reduced to, often to less than 1 watt, or even 0.5 watts on some models, not that you should be leaving any Electrical Appliance on Standby, if you are serious about saving Electricity.