How to check energy efficiency of appliances and keep bills down

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Shoppers looking for a bargain fridge, washing machine or TV during this week’s Black Friday shopping event might want to check the energy efficiency of their appliances to make even bigger savings.

Most households are paying more for their energy, and will continue to do so for some time if the latest forecasts are correct. It makes sense to keep track of your energy usage if you want to keep bills as low as possible. 

Lots of household goods now come with labels explaining how energy efficient they are – but a third of consumers say they don’t understand these, according to research by the comparison site Uswitch.

It doesn’t help that a new rating system was introduced last year, making it harder to compare older appliances to newer ones. 

You can reduce your energy bill in the long run by checking the energy efficiency label of appliances before you buy them

You can reduce your energy bill in the long run by checking the energy efficiency label of appliances before you buy them

Understanding energy efficiency labels can help consumers make some serious savings in the long run, or stop them overspending on an ‘energy saving’ device that will never pay for itself.

We explain what these efficiency labels mean and how to work out what you might save over a few years.

What is an energy efficiency label?

Four in five consumers are now looking at energy efficiency labels when buying a new appliance, according to Uswitch.

Most people will have seen these stickers on appliances and white goods in their homes. They give a colour-coded rating to tell users how energy-efficient the appliance is.

Appliances are tested for how much energy they consume at a ‘typical’ level of use and are then rated on a scale of A to G, with A being the most efficient and G the least efficient.

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The label should also tell you how much energy your device will use in kilowatt hours, but this will vary between appliances.

A fridge-freezer shows how much energy it will use over the course of a year, while a washing machine label will show how much energy it uses for 100 washes, for example. 

What does the new energy efficiency label look like?

There has been a lot of the confusion under the new A to G system which was introduced in March 2021. 

It was updated because the energy output of appliances has reduced since the old system was brought in, which meant the old labelling system which ranged from A+++ to G was becoming redundant. 

A lot of shops are still selling appliances rated A+, A++ and A+++ under the old system, however, which may trip up some customers.

The most efficient products, previously labelled as A+++, roughly correspond to class B or C under the new scheme. 

The Energy Saving Trust says the use of multiple + signs reduced clarity and most modern products now occupy the top two or three classes.

The new energy labels using the new rating system can be found on fridges, freezers, washing machines and dryers, TVs, lighting and dishwashers.

What the kWh rating refers to depends on the type of appliance. It might refer to energy used per 100 cycles, in the case of a dishwasher or washing machine, but it might also refer to the energy used per year, or per a certain amount of hours. 

There’s also room for extra information on the new label, including the noise level of an appliance, the amount of water used per use, and the duration of a cycle or wash.

How much money do energy efficient appliances save?

When you’re looking to buy a new energy efficient appliance, it makes sense to weigh up the upfront cost of purchasing it against how much the cheaper running costs might save you on energy bills.  

Ben Gallizzi, energy expert at Uswitch said: ‘You might save yourself a hundred pounds by getting a budget appliance, but you could be left paying a hefty energy bill as some devices can cost five times as much to run as their more energy efficient alternatives.

 You might save yourself a hundred pounds by getting a budget appliance, but you could be left paying a hefty energy bill

‘How quickly a more efficient appliance pays for itself depends on the product, but sometimes low-energy devices can cost the same as gadgets that will run up three times the energy bill.’

A typical A+ rated oven (under the old labelling system) could cost £85.83 to run for a year, £11.17 less than the £96.80 a user would pay to use for an A-rated oven, according to Uswitch. 

But the most efficient oven costs £110 more to buy, meaning it would take nearly ten years for the more expensive appliance to pay for itself in energy savings at current unit rates.

Uswitch has looked at the price of some typical appliances with either high or low energy efficiency, versus how much they cost to run

Uswitch has looked at the price of some typical appliances with either high or low energy efficiency, versus how much they cost to run

There is an even bigger incentive to check the energy efficiency label when you compare lower-rated appliances.

One brand selling fridge-freezers offered an A-rated appliance and F-rated appliance listed for the same price, according to Uswitch’s research. 

However the F-rated appliance could cost £97.92 a year to run, compared to £36.72 for the more efficient fridge-freezer.

A typical A++ rated tumble dryer would cost £35 a year to run, compared to nearly £200 for a less-efficient one, with the most efficient only taking 18 months to pay for itself.

If you want to find the best options for appliances, you can use websites like Topten, which provides energy efficiency listings for lots of electrical products. 

HOW MUCH DO YOUR DEVICES COST TO RUN?  

Energy efficiency doesn’t just mean buying efficient appliances, you can cut costs by using less energy too.

If you can work out how much energy an appliance is using per hour, you can make a decision on where to potentially cut back.

Every appliance has a power rating, usually given in watts (W) or kilowatts (kW) – 1000W = 1kW – which tells you how much electricity needs to work. The amount of electricity it uses depends on how long it’s turned on.

The way to work it out is taking the power rating for your device. In this instance we’ve used the average power rating but it will depend on the exact size and model of the appliance.

Multiply the device’s wattage by the number of hours you use it per day, and divide this number by 1000 to get the daily kilowatt-hour.

Electricity is sold by kWh, which tends to come up as ‘units’ in your bill.

You can work out how much an appliance costs to run by multiplying the device’s wattage by the number of hours you use it per day and then by the cost of electricity.

For example, if you use a 1500W air fryer for an average of one hour per day, it will use roughly 1.5 kilowatts of electricity when you use it.

You can then check how much you’re paying for your electricity per kilowatt hour to get a figure – currently, electricity is capped at 34p/kWh (but some on fixed deals may be paying less than that). That would mean one hour of fryer would cost roughly 51p.

For a slow cooker, they can be as low as 200W of power. If you use that for five hours, it would cost 34p, or roughly 7p an hour.

Five minutes’ usage of a typical 800W microwave will use just a few pence of energy.

HOW MUCH APPLIANCES COST TO USE  
Appliance  Average power rating*  Cost per hour Cost per 10 minutes 
Kettle  3000W  £1.02 17p
Tumble dryer   2500W  85p  14p 
Oven   2100W  71p  12p 
Washing machine   2100W  71p  12p 
Hairdryer   2000W  68p  11p 
Hob   2000W  68p  11p 
Iron  1500W  51p 9p 
Toaster  1000W  34p  6p 
Microwave  1000W  34p   6p 
Vacuum  900W  31p   5p 
Desktop computer   140W  5p  1p
Laptop  50W  2p   – 
Broadband router  10W  1p   –  
Source: The Centre for Sustainable Energy *Average wattage varies depending on your device

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