Energy efficiency ratings: What are they for and why are they important?

At SaveMoneyCutCarbon, we know it’s important to get more bang for your buck – we’re experts at it. With energy bills set to increase this autumn for millions of households in the UK, it’s becoming clear that to save money on our energy bills, we need to start being smarter with our energy usage.

One way to do this is to ensure that all your appliances in your home are efficient, and here’s why.

First off: what are energy efficiency ratings?

Energy efficiency ratings – in regard to household appliances – are a way of measuring the amount of energy an appliance uses and how efficient it is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). Normally referred to as an Energy Label, you’ll find them on electrical appliances, in the packaging of TVs, washing machines, dishwashers, lightbulbs and many more home appliances.

They were introduced by the EU in 1992 to:

  • encourage manufacturers to take responsibility for the impacts their products have on the environment;
  • drive innovation and competition in the industry; and
  • help consumers make more informed shopping choices based on their budget.

Initially, the classes ranged from A to G, with the introduction of the plus (+) classes in 2010. This is because stricter regulations and higher consumer demand motivated manufacturers to search for even more innovative products, meaning those arriving on the market are even more efficient than their predecessors.

However, from 2021 the standard A – G classes will be back in place with the plus system removed. This is so that the system allows for future innovation – the criteria for each rating have also been revised, with the ‘A’ rating being reserved – very few products will have this rating. For example, where an appliance was rated A+++ beforehand, it may go down to be rated B, C or even D.

This will also help make it simpler and clearer for consumers to purchase efficient goods. To learn more about the new label, you can read our latest Learn&Save article about it.

How are energy efficiency ratings calculated?

Previously, each appliance was tested for how much energy it uses during what’s called ‘typical use’ and measured by the amount of energy in kWh it uses per hour. A lower kWh = more energy efficient appliance.

Another aspect that’s considered is an appliance’s size, as two different-sized appliances that have the same energy rating might use different amounts of electricity. For example, a 424-litre fridge freezer with an F rating could cost around £160 a year to run, while a smaller 265-litre fridge freezer with a G rating could cost around £135 a year to run. But remember, this is all based on laboratory tests.

Under the new labels, because research and testing processes for appliances have become more and more precise, future ratings will more accurately represent real household conditions.

Energy costs are rising since the pandemic

The pandemic has really wreaked havoc on our economy, with the energy industry being only one of many affected. It has seen record energy price increases across the board – from gas and electricity to petrol and diesel, as economies tried to recover from the COVID-19 crisis.

According to the BBC, the wholesale cost of energy accounts for 40% of domestic bills. Since Ofgem’s last increase to the price cap in February, wholesale prices have risen more than 50%, which has led the regulator to increase the cap again. This could see domestic customers see their bill increase by between £139-153 annually.

With many UK households already struggling to make ends meet, this will make it even more difficult for them. Aside from switching energy suppliers and tariffs (more on that in a future EcoBabble instalment!), reducing your energy usage wherever possible will help take the edge off these increases.

Climate change needs to be tackled – right now

It’s not just the economy that’s causing problems either.

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the world’s leading authority on climate change, has just released a new report this month on the state of the climate emergency. The report, put together over the last 8 years, paints a very stark picture of the future we are looking forward to if we don’t start tackling climate change now – not soon, not next month or next year. Right now.

According to the report, temperatures are likely to rise by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels within the next 20 years. This goes beyond the objective of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, to such a degree that only drastic and immediate reductions in greenhouse gases (GHGs) will prevent a devastating breakdown in our climate.

The Guardian reports:

“The repeatedly ignored warnings of scientists over past decades have now become reality. Humanity, through its actions, or lack of action, has unequivocally overheated the planet. Nowhere on Earth is escaping rising temperatures, worse floods, hotter wildfires or more searing droughts.

[…] The key aspect of the IPCC report is that the 42-page summary is agreed, line by line, by every government on the planet, with the scientists vetoing any politically convenient but unscientific proposal.”

The situation is dire, depressing and downright devastating. And that’s not even that half of it.

Energy efficiency is important in tackling greenhouse gas emissions

You might not notice the impact that your appliances or energy consumption have on the environment – if you have a smart meter, you might find these represented in a few kWh changes throughout the day. We can guarantee you, they do have a large impact, especially when viewed over the course of a year or more.

Put simply, the more energy we consume in our homes and businesses equates to more carbon emissions produced.

According to the UN, “the energy supply sector (electricity, heat, and other energy) is the largest contributor” to GHGs, accounting for approximately 35% of global emissions. Households specifically consume 29% of energy worldwide, contributing over a fifth of CO2 emissions.

Any reduction in household energy usage would have a great impact on the planet. Of course, changes like alternative heat sources, insulation and sustainable development would take larger strides towards reducing emissions, but that’s not to say that reducing energy in other ways is useless.

And according to Professor Tim Palmer at the University of Oxford, “If we do not halt our emissions soon, our future climate could well become some kind of hell on Earth.” It rests on all of our shoulders to tackle this problem.

What can we as householders do then?

By no means are we saying you need to rush to replace all your perfectly functioning appliances now – after all, waste is just as much of a climate concern as energy is – but when you are ready to replace those appliances, you should be choosing the most efficient appliance within your budget as possible. This is where we can help.

With a SaveMoneyCutCarbon Home Club membership, that’s made all the easier. We have a whole Home Club Guide packed full of ways you can save energy: one of which is to make sure all your household appliances are energy efficient. You can also save money across our range of energy efficient appliances, using your planet points to unlock further savings.

Our team are on hand to answer your burning energy questions too – we have undertaken over 1000+ carbon reducing projects, each year saving over 23,473,500 kWh of energy. Considering 1 kWh equates to three hours of watching your favourite series on TV, that’s a whole lot of energy saved!

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