A guide to energy ratings and energy-efficient white goods

18 March 2021 | Celia Topping

man fridge

Energy efficiency ratings: put simply, they’re here to help us make good decisions about all the stuff we plug in, and switch on. How? By giving us handy insights into the long-term running costs, and the greenhouse gas emissions of the products we use. 

For example, we can use them to guide us to buy more energy-efficient white goods. And that helps us reduce our energy bills, as well as our carbon emissions. But sometimes they can be a little confusing. So here’s our run-down on energy rating labels, and how to get the best out of them.

What’s an energy rating? 

An energy rating is simply a way of measuring and showing how energy-efficient an appliance is, based on how much energy it uses.

You’ve likely seen them stuck to your fridge. Well, those colour-coded energy rating labels we’re all familiar with were first introduced in the EU in 19921. The idea was all white goods, like dishwashers, washing machines and tumble dryers, should clearly display their energy rating. 

How are appliance energy ratings calculated?

The ratings are based on the amount of energy a device uses. The fewer units of energy (measured in kilowatt hours – kWh), the better its rating. And the better for the environment, too. 

Why are energy ratings important?

Since its introduction, the EU energy label has been a key driver for helping us choose more energy-efficient products. And it also encourages manufacturers to use more energy-efficient technologies, to drive sales. 

For example, roughly two-thirds of fridges and washing machines sold in 2006 were labelled as class A. But 90% of those appliances sold in 2017, were labelled A+, A++ or A+++2. It seems the financial and environmental draw of energy-efficient appliances has made a huge impact on the nation’s shopping habits. 

Why are energy ratings changing?

More and more energy-efficient appliances are being developed year on year. Because of this – as well as the slightly confusing “+” rating system – the EU are updating the scale. 

As of March 2021, the ratings are changing slightly. All those “+” signs are being replaced by a simpler scale – running from A to G3. 

The new generation rating system will change on TVs, fridges, dishwashers and washing machines first. Light bulbs and lamps are set to be next, from 1st September 2021 – and other products will follow suit over the next few years. 

This means an energy-efficient fridge with an A+++ rating could move to class B, C, or even lower – but without actually being any less efficient. 

One interesting thing to note: Class A will initially be empty, to leave room for more energy-efficient models of the future. Which means there must be some really exciting, super-energy-efficient tech in development! All together, it should help us to more clearly spot our most energy-efficient options. 

It also encourages manufacturers to keep innovating. Which can only be a good thing for the planet, and our pockets. And the new labels also include a QR code, so we can see information about each product at the touch of a smartphone button. 

To find out more about the new generation of EU energy labels, check out the EU guide. 

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Saving energy on your white goods 

Whether the appliance you’re buying is brand new – complete with the new ratings – not yet upscaled, or second-hand – there are still ways to improve the energy-efficiency of your appliances, without breaking the bank. 

How to improve the energy efficiency of your washing machine

Appliance labels (or their online blurbs) should cover 3 separate bits of information:

  • The energy rating.

  • The energy use for a standard cycle – this will say something like: 165 kWh per year, based on 220 standard washing cycles.
  • The estimated yearly water use for washing and spinning – say 10,686 litres per year, based on 220 standard washing cycles.

According to Which?, the running costs of washing machines can range from £15 to £634 a year, depending on efficiency. So it makes sense to reduce laundry costs wherever you can. Always wait for a full load, and use a cool 30°C to wash your clothes. Let us guide you through the laundry minefield, with our energy-saving tips on how to make your laundry more energy-efficient.

How to improve the energy efficiency of your washer dryer

Because washer dryers have to combine 2 different functions, they can be expensive to run. But not necessarily as expensive as having both a washing machine and a tumble dryer. 

To get the most efficiency from a washer dryer, take out some items when the washing cycle’s finished. That’s because the drying programme has a smaller capacity than the washing programme. Once the first drying cycle is complete, you can swap your dry clothes for the damp ones you took out earlier, and do a second cycle.

How to improve the energy efficiency of your tumble dryer

Any appliance that produces heat is energy-intensive. This definitely includes tumble dryers. According to Which?, the running costs of a tumble dryer can range between £25 and £1215, depending on that all-important energy rating. This is why the tumble dryer is generally seen as the energy-guzzler of the kitchen. 

The most energy-efficient way to dry your clothes is outside on a washing line. But in lieu of a garden, or considering the British weather, a tumble dryer may be the fallback option. Obviously, the higher the efficiency rating, the bigger the price tag. So you’ll need to decide whether the money you’ll save in the long run will balance out the higher purchase cost.

In the meantime, be sure to clean the lint filter after every few uses, to help it run more efficiently. Untangle your clothes before putting them in, as they can tumble easier. And sticking a dry towel in with your clothes will help the process along, and dry clothes faster.

If you'd like to know more about how to dry your clothes in a flash without a tumble dryer, just follow these neat tips and tricks we've put together for you.

How to improve the energy efficiency of your dishwasher            woman loading dishwasher              

But as with other appliances, you’re only getting top performance if you wait until the dishwasher is full. Otherwise you’re not getting the most out of it. On the other hand, don’t overload it, as this stops water circulating properly, and you may not get everything clean. 

Read our practical tips on how to save water in the kitchen, to help reduce your carbon footprint.

How to improve the energy efficiency of your fridge, freezer or fridge-freezer 

Fridges and freezers use a lot of energy, because they’re permanently switched on. And if yours is over 10 years old, or seems to be eating electricity, it might be worth replacing it even before it stops working. The energy savings you’ll make could pay for its cost in just a few years.

Fridges and freezers are graded according to how efficient they are for their size, rather than according to their actual kWh consumption. So it's definitely worth checking out smaller models, if you don’t use yours to capacity. Here are some ways to make sure you’re making the most of your fridge’s energy rating:

  • Set the fridge to 3°C and the freezer to -18°C.
  • Don’t leave the fridge door open!  
  • Keep an eye on the seals, and replace where necessary.
  • Defrost regularly.
  • Keep the back of the fridge clean and free from grease and dust. A build-up of dirt means the fridge has to work harder to keep cool. 

Check out our guide to the most energy-efficient fridge-freezers, to learn how to choose the best one for your home.

What does an EPC rating mean? 

Energy ratings refer to the energy-efficiency of appliances. An Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) does exactly the same thing for your home. It includes things like how much energy your home uses, its carbon emissions, and ways you can cut energy use and save money. It even tells you whether your property’s green enough to qualify for certain benefits and grants. To find out more about EPCs for your property, read our useful guide. 

And if you’re looking for new ways to save electricity and money in your energy bills, why not switch to OVO? We offer highly competitive energy prices and 100% renewable electricity6 as standard. And on the top of that, we plant a tree on your behalf every year you’re with us7. Pretty cool, huh?

Get a quote in just 2 minutes and start saving with OVO today. 

How to improve your energy efficiency rating at home

Improving your energy performance at home won’t only make it a cosier place to be. It can also save you money, and increase its value. Here are some of the ways you can improve your home energy efficiency:

  • Double glazing – getting those windows done will change your life! Double-glazing not only keeps your home warm or cool as desired, but it also massively reduces noise. 
  • Loft insulation – this is one of the simplest and cheapest ways to make a huge difference to your bills. 
  • Wall insulation – whether you have solid walls or cavity walls, there’s an insulation method to suit your needs.
  • Replacing your boiler – it’s one of the most important purchases you’ll make for your home. Check out our guide on how to find the best boiler for you
  • Consider other secondary heating sources – a standalone heater or wood-burning stove could help lower your costs. 

It’s also worth finding out if you might qualify for the Green Home Grant, for help with the cost of improving your home’s energy efficiency. 

What’s the environmental impact (CO2) of each EPC energy rating?

The way we heat, light and power our homes produces over 25% of the UK’s carbon emissions8. Part of what the EPC does, is look into the impact of your home on the environment. This is measured in terms of carbon dioxide (CO2) emission. The lower the rating, the higher the impact, and vice versa. 

An EPC shows the current and potential energy rating of a home, produced through a Standard Assessment Procedure, or SAP. The SAP charts are divided into 7 bands, from A to G. Each rating has a set number of SAP points. The chart below shows the range for those bands, with 100 being the most efficient.

BandRating Points
A92-100 SAP points (Most efficient)
B81-91 SAP points
C69-80 SAP points
D55-68 SAP points
E39-54 SAP points
F21-38 SAP points
G1-20 SAP points (Least efficient)

And the chart below shows the difference that could be made to the SAP rating with various energy-saving methods. Please note these are only estimates. 

ImprovementRating can be improved byEstimated Savings
Condensing Boiler*47 SAP points£225+ per year
Cavity Insulation*13 SAP points£100-£125 per year
Roof Insulation*10 SAP points£100-£125 per year
Cylinder Stat & Insulation*8 SAP points£100-£125 per year
Double Glazing*4 SAP points£10-£15 per year
Low Energy Lighting*2 SAP points£10-£15 per year


Other ways to save energy in the home

Energy-efficiency doesn’t just relate to the appliances you use, and the way you insulate. At OVO, we’re all about helping you cut energy costs around the home, however and wherever we can. 

The smart meter revolution is well and truly upon us – so if you haven’t already had one installed, our cheapest Better Smart tariff could be just the thing you need! This tariff comes complete with a free smart meter installed, and an In-Home Display (IHD). Which is the most efficient way to track your energy use, make tweaks and save money. Used along with a smart thermostat, you can be the most energy-efficient cat in town!

Our Carbon Tracker will help you further track your energy use, and find ways to cut your bill. Even simple things like knowing the ideal temperature for every room in your home really helps. Find much more information on how to reduce your gas and electricity bills in our guides.

And if you’re really committed to cutting your carbon footprint, our green upgrade, OVO Beyond will supercharge your journey to zero carbon.

By switching to OVO today, you can take advantage of competitive, affordable prices, plus so much more: 

  • 100% renewable electricity as standard9
  • A tree planted in your name every single year you are with us10
  • 3-5% interest for every year your account has a positive balance
  • An award-winning smart meter experience (Uswitch 2020)
  • A £50 gift card every time an OVO member introduces a friend to us

And if you want to speak to us, we're proud to say we have a call waiting time of under a minute!11 

Sources and references:

6  The renewable electricity we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)). See here for details on REGO certificates and how these work.

7   Each year, OVO plants 1 tree for every member in partnership with the Woodland Trust. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so tree-planting helps to slow down climate change.


9   The renewable electricity we sell is backed by renewable certificates (Renewable Energy Guarantee of Origin certificates (REGOs)). See here for details on REGO certificates and how these work.

10  Each year, OVO plants 1 tree for every member in partnership with the Woodland Trust. Trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, so tree-planting helps to slow down climate change.

11  Based on data from 25th November 2020 to 25th February 2021, where OVO answered calls within an average of 52 seconds.

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