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Blog Post 14 March 2022

Energy ratings: everything you need to know

Energy ratings come in a number of different forms, and while they’re there to help us make sound decisions based on the long-term running costs and carbon emissions of the products we use, they can sometimes be misunderstood.

Here, we give a low-down on labels, and how to get the best out of them.

Ranking appliances and gadgets

The Europe-wide energy label has been around for more than 25 years. It’s supported consumers and professional buyers to search for and choose energy efficient products, and has helped manufacturers and retailers develop more innovative and efficient products.

Due to increased demand for more environmentally friendly options, the energy that products use has reduced. This means that the existing labelling scheme – ranging from A+++ to G – had become less effective. The use of multiple ‘+’ signs reduces clarity and most modern products now occupy the top two or three classes, making it more difficult to identify the most energy-efficient products.

The energy label has now been revised and improved. The new label, which appeared in high street and online shops from March 2021 for refrigerators and freezers, washing machines and washer-dryers, dishwashers, TVs and displays, and from October 2021 for light sources, features a new, simpler range: A to G. For other labelled products like ovens and tumble dryers, the new labels will be introduced as soon as new or revised UK regulations come into force.

What to look for on the new label

Other changes you’ll find on the new label are:

  • A QR code which links to additional product information and can be scanned with your smartphone.
  • New and improved icons to improve clarity and provide additional information at a glance.
  • The energy consumption of the products is shown in the middle section of the label. Consumption is presented either as kWh per year, kWh per 1,000 hours or kWh per 100 cycles, depending on the product group.
  • Products displayed in online shops are labelled with a simplified diagram showing the energy efficiency class with a green arrow.

The most efficient products, previously labelled as A+++, will roughly correspond to the new label class B or C, depending on the product group. However, it’s not possible to precisely match up the energy class shown on the old label and the energy class shown on the new one. This is because new methods of testing product performance have been brought in to give a more accurate reflection of how products will perform in homes, and not just in test environments.

For products such as dishwashers and fridges, where the options are clustered around the A-pluses, you can use sites like Topten to find the ‘best in class’ options. Topten also provides information on what minimum energy rating you might expect to find for a certain category of product.

Other information on the label to look out for is the kWh/year figure, as there can be quite a big difference between bigger and smaller models. Don’t buy a bigger product than you need. If you’re interested in finding out more about the new energy labels, visit the Label2020 website.

Better heating systems

Boilers and other forms of heating such as heat pumps got new energy labels in 2015.

Beyond an A++-G rating, the label includes information such as the level of sound they produce and for some product types whether the heater has the capacity to generate electricity – the latter accounting for the fact that the heating market is changing, with more low carbon options. Some combinations of heating systems, or boiler and controls, now also get a rating for the whole package as well as the individual boiler or heater.

Boiler Plus legislation introduced in England in April 2018 requires a minimum level of energy efficiency from a boiler for it to be installed. The rules also mean that when a gas combination boiler is being installed, it must come with certain controls.

Installers should be in the know when it comes to requirements and labelling, but as our guide to boiler replacement explains, you should always seek out multiple quotes, and make sure that professionals are registered with bodies that provide assurance that the work will be of high quality.

Your home, certified

Energy Performance Certificates, or EPCs, are legally required when buying or renting a home. They tell you how energy efficient the property is, from A (very efficient) to G (very inefficient). Most of the UK’s housing stock falls somewhere in between the two – with the average energy efficiency rating of homes in the UK sitting in band D – meaning there’s generally room for improvement.

The certificate gives an indication of how much the home will likely cost to run now, and how much could potentially be saved with some home improvements. The recommendations for home improvements will provide a guide to their typical cost and potential yearly energy bill saving, as well as where the place will rank on the A-G scale after the recommendations are complete in order.

Other information you’ll get from your EPC includes a breakdown of how various elements of the building are performing, the environmental impact of the property, how much energy the property needs for heating and hot water, as well as whether there’s any renewable sources contributing to the home’s energy supply.

Standards are also improving on the calculations that lie behind EPCs. The Standard Assessment Procedure (SAP) is currently being updated to take better account of factors like the type of low energy lighting used in a property, what kind of shower is installed and the lower carbon emissions of electricity supply compared to previous years. The new version is set to be adopted in England from June 2022, and it should make EPCs a more accurate account of a home’s performance than ever before.

Check our guide to EPCs for the full run-through of what it all means.

Last updated: 14 March 2022