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Behind the eco labels: Energy Star

Pat Thomas

1st April, 2007

All European manufacturers and retailers must tell you about the energy efficiency of household ‘white goods’ such as fridges, freezers, washing machines, tumble driers, dishwashers, air conditioners, ovens and lightbulbs. The European Energy Label is certified by the Energy Savings Trust (EST), in conjunction with industry and the government. On these labels, products are rated from A to G, with A being the most efficient.

In 2004, the most efficient fridges and freezers were given additional ‘star ratings’ of A+ and A++ to differentiate them from less efficient A-rated models. Certification is left to the manufacturers, and independent analyses have revealed a tendency for some manufacturers to overestimate the energy efficiency of their products, leading to a false classification of some appliances.

Energy efficiency is a relative term – in the context of the European Energy Label, it is not about absolute energy use but is defined as the demand for energy per unit of ‘service’, for instance the volume of a refrigerator or the weight of clothes washed. As the equipment gets larger, it is easier to achieve a high level of energy efficiency. Under this rating system, a small fridge may appear to be less energy efficient than a larger, more expensive model.

The Energy Star, which originated in the US, means that an appliance’s energy consumption is below an agreed level in standby mode. The criteria for this agreed level varies from product to product. In the UK, the Energy Star is most likely to be found on TVs and computer monitors, printers and fax machines. Within the EU, Energy Star is a voluntary labelling scheme and its use is controlled by an agreement between the USA and the European community. See for details.

The Ecologist says

The policy for energy efficiency white goods is due to be revised again in 2008 possibly to include the removal of current B rated appliances from the marketplace. Refrigerators are designed to last 15 years or so and should not be treated as impulse buys. Likewise it may be time for us to end our love affair with all things electric – such as toothbrushes, shavers, and kitchen gadgets of every conceivable purpose.

This article first appeared in the Ecologist May 2007

To find out the truth behind other Eco Labels click here


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