A guide to energy-saving white goods
There are many good reasons for wanting to save energy. To start with, the less energy each of us manages to use, the less we’re drawing on the Earth’s precious (and limited) natural resources. So it’s good for the environment, and the future of our planet.
Secondly, it can reduce your energy bills. The more efficient your everyday appliances, the less energy they use, so the lower your bills should be.
In today’s cash-strapped times, the more you can save on energy bills, the better. However, rather than sit shivering because you don’t want to turn on the heating, you could consider upgrading your appliances for more energy-efficient models.
We don’t mean you should immediately throw away perfectly workable washing machines or dishwashers – but, let’s face it, they’re sure to need replacing sooner or later. So when their time is up, make sure you know how to find energy-saving white goods that can save you money without any loss of cleaning power.
What is an energy rating?
An energy rating is simply a way of measuring and showing how energy efficient an appliance is, according to how much energy it consumes.
Nowadays, thanks to European Union rules, white goods like dishwashers, washing machines and tumble dryers must have an EU Energy Label showing their appliance energy rating. This lets you know how efficient (or not) they are. They’re rated from G (the least efficient) up to A+++ (the most efficient).
These ratings, which are essential information when you’re choosing energy-efficient white goods, are based on the amount of energy each device uses. The fewer units of energy (measured in kilowatt hours – kWh) an appliance uses, the better its rating.
If you’re buying at a retail store, each appliance should have a coloured sticker showing its energy efficiency rating. However, websites don’t seem to keep to the same rules. Some helpfully show the ratings in the top line description of the appliance, others seem to hide the information. If so, you might have to click on ‘full details’ and look under ‘performance’ to find any facts about the item’s energy consumption.
The EU-funded MarketWatch survey, which is run by the Energy Saving Trust, visited 114 traditional shops and 111 online retailers across Europe, to check whether they were displaying energy consumption information correctly. They found that nearly two thirds of products (62%) in the online sites had missed out some information about appliances’ energy consumption and performance.
In the UK websites checked by the survey, a worrying 90% of products had energy information missing or displayed wrongly. However, the good news was that all the products checked were labelled with at least some kind of information about their energy performance.
Traditional shops and retailers did much better. Over 77% of products across Europe were correctly labelled, while UK shops had even higher figures, with 80% of products showing the relevant figures in the right format (1).
Saving energy on laundry: washing machines, washer dryers and tumble dryers
Since 2014, to comply with EU regulations, all washing machines are rated from A to A+++.
Appliance labels, or their online descriptions, should give three separate bits of information:
The energy rating, from A up to A+++.
The energy consumption of a standard cycle – this will say something like: 165 kWh per year, based on 220 standard washing cycles.
The estimated annual water consumption 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 £12 up to £53 a year (2). So it makes sense to reduce laundry costs in other ways wherever you can.
Because washer dryers have to combine two different functions, they can be expensive to run, but not necessarily as expensive as having both a washing machine and a tumble dryer. They can be rated up to A+++, but as that rating covers both their uses, it’s impossible to compare them like-for-like with individual washing machines and tumble dryers.
To get the most efficiency from a washer dryer, you should remove some items when the washing cycle has finished, because the drying programme will have a smaller capacity than the washing programme. Once the first drying cycle is complete, you can swap the dry clothes for the damp ones you took out earlier, and do a second cycle.
Tumble dryers use a lot of energy, so if you can manage without one, all the better. Basically, anything that produces heat is pretty energy intensive. According to Which?, the running costs of a tumble dryer can be as much as £100 a year(3) – almost twice as much as the top figure for a washing machine.
The most energy-efficient way to dry your clothes is to do it naturally, on a washing line or airer, but if you haven’t got a garden, or it’s pouring with rain, a tumble dryer may be essential for you. If so, the more energy efficient it is, the less it will add to your bills, so look for an A+ or A++ rated model if you can afford it.
You can even find some A+++ tumble dryers, but they cost around £2,000 (ouch!). The most efficient dryers do also tend to be the most expensive, so you’ll need to decide whether the money you’ll save will balance out the higher purchase cost.
Saving energy in the kitchen: dishwashers, fridges and freezers
It used to be more efficient to wash up by hand, but today’s highly efficient dishwashers often use less heat and water than doing the same amount of washing up yourself. Some dishwashers can wash a full load in as little as 6.2 litres of water(4) – that’s less than the volume of a standard washing-up bowl.
This is good news if you have a water meter, but it’s only true if you wait until the dishwasher is fully loaded. If you keep using it with part loads, you’re not making the most of its efficiency. On the other hand, don’t overload it, as that stops the water circulating properly and you may not get everything clean.
Fridges and freezers (and fridge-freezers)
Fridges and freezers use a lot of energy, because they’re permanently switched on, so 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.
When it comes to energy efficiency ratings, fridges and freezers are a special case; they must have energy efficiency ratings of between A+ and A+++. However, if you bought yours before July 2012 it probably has a rating of between G and A, which means it will have much higher running costs than today’s A-rated appliances.
Fridges and freezers are graded according to how efficient they are in relation to their size, rather than according to their actual kWh consumption. So a larger A++-rated model may seem to be the most efficient fridge-freezer for your needs, but it might well use more energy than a more compact B-rated model, because smaller versions are usually cheaper to run.
than a more compact B-rated model, because smaller versions are usually cheaper to run. That's why you should choose the smallest fridge and/or freezer you can (as long as it’s large enough for your needs).
Use our electricity cost calculator
- Use our electricity cost calculator. It helps you to work out how much it costs for the electricity to run various household appliances.