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New energy labels for domestic appliances

We look at the changes to EU energy efficiency labels for domestic appliances including lighting, and consider the implications of Brexit.

As the label enthusiasts among you are no doubt already aware, 1st March 2021 was a momentous day in the world of energy labelling, being the official launch of a ‘new generation’ of EU energy labels.

The EU energy labels were first introduced for a number of household appliances in 1994 to help consumers choose more energy efficient products. The labels list energy performance on an ‘A’ to ‘G’ scale and have been widely praised for encouraging manufacturers to innovate and produce more efficient products.

Has Brexit affected the energy label?

Of course, since casting off the shackles of EU bureaucracy, the UK is free to boldly go its own way, but in this instance we’ve chosen to follow suit – the only notable difference between the EU and UK labels is that the latter will now proudly boast the Union Jack instead of the Flag of Europe.

It’s good news that the UK is continuing with this labelling scheme, but we should have settled for nothing less. The government had previously stated that, following Brexit, the UK would “match and even exceed EU eco-product regulations” as part of its plan to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Energy label fridge
An example of the new UK energy label for a fridge

What changes are there to the new energy label?

The main change is that the efficiency categories have been ‘rescaled’. When it was first launched the scheme used a scale from ‘A’ (most efficient) to ‘G’ (least efficient), but as products became more efficient, more categories were added: A+, A++, A+++.

It was clear that the proliferation of pluses could not go on forever: the system was becoming confusing and did not clearly highlight which products were the most energy efficient on the market.

In order to solve this problem it was decided that the energy labels would return to using the original scale: ‘A’ to ‘G’.

This rescaling also saw the boundaries shift, so that previously ‘best-in-class’ products might now only receive a ‘D’. The EU claimed that the ‘A’ class would “initially be empty to leave room for more energy-efficient models to be developed.” However, in our research we have found some appliances that have already made the ‘A’ grade.

Another change is that the new label will include a QR code on the top right. Scanning this code will allow consumers to find out additional information about the product, such as data relating to the dimensions, specific features, or test results, depending on the appliance.

Which products are affected?

The new energy labels will be introduced to the following products from 1st March 2021:

The EU has stated that other products will also be ‘rescaled’ in future years, including tumble dryers, local space heaters, air conditioners, cooking appliances, ventilation units, space and water heaters, and solid fuel boilers. However, as yet (2023), no revised energy efficiency label schemes have been implemented for these items. If new labels are brought it, it is likely the UK will implement the same changes, though the official UK energy label website is somewhat unclear on the matter, stating, “new labels will be introduced as soon as new or revised UK regulations come into force.”

If you are considering buying new domestic appliances from the above list of appliances, look out for the new label and remember that a 'new' C rating may not be as bad as a C rating on the previous labels. Our shopping guides to these appliances will reflect the changes as they are updated.