With at least 40% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions coming from households, reducing the carbon footprint of your home has never been more vital than it is now, and will continue to be if we are to reach the government’s net zero by 2050 target. This has become increasingly difficult as demand for energy grows, but by reducing your energy and water consumption, you draw less of these limited resources from the planet.
Saving energy by using a smart meter, or changing your lighting in your home are two easy ways to take control of and reduce your energy consumption, but another is making sure all your home appliances are energy-efficient. Not only will this help with your usage, but it will also reduce your energy and water bills.
Now, it’s important not to throw away a perfectly functional appliance, but once it’s reached the end of its life and ready to be recycled, replacing it with a more efficient model is a must.
But what do all the energy ratings mean, why do we have them and do you have to get the highest level for it to be worth it?
What are energy ratings, and how are they calculated?
Energy ratings are a way of measuring the amount of energy an appliance uses and how efficient it is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh). The ratings go from A+++, which is the most efficient using the lowest kWh, down to G, which is the least efficient using much more kWh. They can be found on all white goods in the form of a label, normally referred to as an Energy Label.
The efficiency rating is calculated based on the annual energy consumption in kWh during 60°C and 40°C wash cycles.
The energy label on your washing machine should give four separate bits of information:
- The energy rating, from A up to A+++.
- The energy consumption of a standard cycle in kWh per year.
- The estimated annual water consumption for washing and spinning in litres per year.
- The efficiency of the spin cycle
It’s worth remembering though that the overall energy efficiency rating of a washing machine doesn’t take the amount of water consumed into account.
Why do we use energy labels?
The short answer? Because we are (or more appropriately, were) members of the EU.
More specifically though, the EU passed a directive in 1992 that required retailers to provide information about the energy efficiency of their household appliances in the form of a label. Initially, the classes ranged from A to G, with the introduction of the plus classes in 2010.
However, the introduction of the plus classes was more confusing for consumers, so a standard A – G rating will be put back in place from 2021 – which won’t be immediately affected by Brexit as it has adopted the standards into UK regulations.
The introduction of this label was designed to allow consumers to compare and choose the most efficient model based on their budget in order to lower their energy bills and their impact on the environment. It also encourages manufacturers to take more responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products.
Is it better to have an A+++ machine compared to an A++?
It depends on a variety of factors, but on the face of it, yes, A+++ models are better than A++ or A+ models.
However, that being said, the difference between these ratings is more complex than that. Essentially though, they allow for more levels of innovation, as manufacturers find more ways to optimise their appliances with energy saving technologies, which require finer levels of ratings.
Realistically, the choice is down to you, your needs and budget. Choosing a machine that suits your home life, work schedules and has features you’re drawn to whilst cutting your energy consumption is much easier due to the wide range of choices available for energy efficient washing machines.
My washing machine doesn’t need replacing – can it still be more efficient?
Wherever your washing machine rates on the scale, if your machine still has a lot of life left in it and isn’t ready to be recycled, there are a number of ways you can make sure it performs as efficiently as possible.
If your machine is no longer suitable for you but still has plenty of use, or it is ready to be recycled, check out Recycle Now, which has plenty of advice for getting rid of your old white goods.
Use a lower wash temperature
You can still get a great washing performance in washes as low as 30°C, and even 20°C machines manufactured since 2013, under the EU’s Ecodesign initiative.
Avoid washing half loads
Washing half loads frequently will use up excess water and energy, and so waiting until you have a full load is much better. If it’s unavoidable, then see if your machine has a half load programme.
Interestingly, a 2017 report from WRAP on sustainable clothing suggested that manufacturers and retailers provide advice only to wash garments when necessary, and other clearer garment care tips could help consumers make their clothes, and the way they care for them more sustainable.
Care for your machine
Loading your machine with heavier washes may mean your clothes don’t get cleaned as well and then require a second wash, in which case you’re using even more energy. It will also damage the drum and shorten the lifetime of your washing machine.
Keep it clean, free of debris
Make sure you empty pockets so that debris doesn’t fall loose and get lodged in the drum somewhere (especially your bra underwires ladies!) as that can damage your machine. Cleaning the filter and running a service wash (a hot, empty wash) will also keep bacteria from growing and keep it fresh.