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Digital labels could maximise energy information on home appliances

Traditional energy labels are often found to be confusing

•    New project aims to eliminate confusing labels
•    Focus on giving consumers what they want
•    Designed to suit any retailer, no matter what size

Energy labels are a great start in helping us understand the energy consumed by the appliances and gadgets we use – but there is always room for improvement. This is where Digi-label, a new EU-funded project managed by Energy Saving Trust, aims to come in. 

Programme Manager, Katie Searle said: “There's a sense that energy labels, although having a role to play, can be confusing and not as useful as they could be. Digi-label is about giving people the information to make better choices through a digital interactive element at the point of sale.”

Going beyond the label

This information might include things like running costs, energy cost over the lifetime of the appliance, comparisons to other similar products, or standby power usage. 

Searle said: “Through reviewing what's been done before and getting a panel of retailers and manufacturers feeding in, we can design something that will hopefully work for everyone. We're looking to create a digital label that is suitable for use in-store or online.”

Once the design is ready, it will be trialled in an initial three-month pilot phase in the UK and Spain. Further time will then be spent perfecting the software before it is given a wider trial in the second half of 2017. 

The project team is currently speaking to manufacturing and retail trade associations, with a view to getting partners on board. 

 

 

Better decisions, quicker

But why this approach? Searle believes it’s all about giving consumers what they want. She said: 

“People are getting more engaged with digital shopping. Where buying main appliances is concerned, people tend to do more research – often having a look in stores, then going away to look for more information online. Having access to key information there are then can help people make a better decision quicker.

“For example, an appliance with a cheaper retail price might actually work out as more costly over time than its slightly more expensive rival, due to having greater running costs. This may not be immediately clear, as annual kilowatt hours don't mean a lot to many people.” 

Managing Competing priorities

With many retailers facing economic pressures, the key in rolling out Digi-label will surely be to make it as easily adopted as possible. Searle said:

“That's the challenge – to design something that goes further than what's there, but compliments what they're doing already. We want to make something that fits in, whether the retailer is large, small, independent or online only.”

And for consumers too, it needs to work. It's not just about providing the maximum amount of information. She added:

“The balance will be in delivering extra information, while not overloading people. People are not going to take the time to read pages and pages of facts and stats, so you've got to establish what's most useful in helping people make energy efficient choices.”

Expect to hear more about Digi-label as the project develops. 

Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, or tweet us at @energysvgtrust.

Gary Hartley is Energy Saving Trust's expert blogger. He has extensive experience researching and writing on a number of topics, with particular expertise in sustainable energy, policy, literature and sport. As well as providing regular blog content, Gary has also been published in numerous magazines and journals.

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