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Do domestic home appliances use more energy than manufacturers claim?

Switching on a dishwasher on an eco cycle

The latest report from MarketWatch, an alliance of European NGOs and consumer organisations set up to monitor product compliance with EU energy regulations, has revealed some quite surprising findings. They include a dishwasher that needed two runs on the test setting to clean properly, and a vacuum cleaner that used 54% more energy than claimed. 

There were fewer glaring examples – some literally so. Assistant Certification Manager, Stewart Muir said, “We found lightbulbs that were simply not bright enough. If a lightbulb isn't meeting its claim on the box, it's not compliant. Consumers need to be sure they're getting what they want and expect. 

“Other issues we found were products with standby power consumption higher than the 1 Watt limit. A couple of tenths of a Watt may not sound like much, but at scale, it's a real problem.”

Narrowing the search 

MarketWatch screened 100 products, and tested 27 products in full – but why were those products in particular targeted?

Stewart said, “We had good intelligence that helped narrow down our scope, including from our project partner International Consumer Research and Testing (ICRT) which does work for Which? and equivalent bodies in other countries. It has lots of industry insights. Plus, we did a lot of testing for the old Energy Saving Trust Recommended label. Then, other partners had some useful market intelligence from industry. We also looked at cheaper products that were claiming high energy ratings that we thought may have been too good to be true.”

Empowering the authorities

On the back of findings, a mixture of engagement and enforcement lies ahead. 

Stewart explained: “We're giving countries' market surveillance authorities our results, which is useful intelligence to bolster their work. MarketWatch itself doesn't have any powers of enforcement but by engaging with manufacturers, we have already seen some action taken, such as product improvements and amended claims.”

Where engagement doesn't work, it's over to the authorities. In the UK, this takes the shape of the National Measurement and Regulation Office (NMRO) – which does have the power to fine, as seen in this example involving a freezer manufacturer. Often, though, it prefers to work with companies and sometimes iron out issues at an earlier stage. 
 
Stewart said, “We're pleased that MarketWatch seems to be providing a valuable service. Energy labelling is self-declared, and while there's wide concern that some products might not be living up to what they're claiming, some EU national authorities often lack the time and resource to check up on them. So we're going some way to filling that gap.”

Consumer trust is key

It's an important gap to fill, as previous studies have suggested that 10% of the energy savings made from eco-design and energy labelling legislation could be lost from products that fall short of their performance claims.

Stewart adds, “There's a broad consensus amongst the partners on this project that if we tested more products, we'd find more anomalies. It's clear that more market surveillance, more testing and more resource for government authorities would be valuable in making sure consumers get what they pay for.”

We have a bespoke service that provides independent verification of product performance. Find out what product verification could mean for your business by emailing certification@est.org.uk or call 0207 222 0101. 

For more information, read Arthur Neslen's article 'Nearly 1 in 5 home appliances uses more energy than advertised, survey finds', published on 22 March 2016 via The Guardian online.

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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Brits could save £1.7 billion a year by switching appliances off standby

Brits could save £1.7 billion a year by switching appliances off standby
Wednesday, 15 October, 2014
  • 74 per cent of people are worried about energy bills yet only half of households who have received an unexpectedly high energy bill check if unused appliances are switched off. 
  • 55 per cent of households have games consoles, a quarter of over 55s have them. 
  • Nearly 40 per cent leave consoles either on or in standby mode when not in use.  
  • Three quarters of those with a spare TV keep it on standby. 
  • Campaign calls for a Great British Appliance check.

Starting on 20 October 2014, the campaign will help householders learn how to take control of their electricity and heating bills with free advice available throughout the week over the phone, online and at events across the UK.

Philip Sellwood, Chief Executive of Energy Saving Trust, said: “We are a nation on standby. Whatever your age, gender or the size of your household: our research has found that millions of us are unintentionally wasting electricity when we leave our gadgets on standby. It’s an easy mistake to make yet it costs us a fortune. And as we become more tech-savvy it’s hardly surprising our home appliances don’t come with an energy-cost warning label on them.

“Televisions and games consoles are now among the primary sources of our everyday entertainment, yet when left on permanent standby they are costing us £45-80 a year. I’m not suggesting we get rid; I’m urging people to take back control of their appliances next week and switch off when we aren’t using them. Check your appliances regularly and switch your supplier to take control of your bills.”

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey said: “Consumers can make a real difference to their electricity bills by improving energy efficiency at home and Citizens Advice and Energy Saving Trust are there to help. Shopping around for the best energy deal can also make a huge difference. We’ve slashed the vast array of confusing tariffs, so it’s now easier to compare energy prices and switching times will be halved by the end of this year. Households could be saving a further £200 per year just by switching suppliers.”

Gillian Guy, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, said: “Every day, Citizens Advice helps people who are struggling to meet the cost of their energy bills. Eighty thousand people a year come to us for help with fuel debts.

“With prices up a third since 2010, it’s more important than ever that people know what they can do to keep their fuel bills down and what help is available. That’s why we’re running events up and down the country to help people make sure they are not paying a penny more than they have to.”

The findings from an Ipsos MORI survey of over 2,000 UK respondents show that 43% of people have at some point received an energy bill higher than they were expecting. One in five of us (19 per cent) still own a fridge or freezer at least 15 years old.

These products are more likely to be inefficient and to have developed faults that owners might not be aware of. This could be causing them to consume more energy than necessary, for instance a freezer with a faulty thermostat could cost £45 a year more to run than it should.

Many of us in Britain are now gamers. One in two of us (55 per cent) own at least one games console. The research shows that whereas young people are more likely to own a games console, with 75 per cent of under 35s having at least one console, one in four over 55s (24 per cent) own a console too. Around two fifths of respondents said they leave their games consoles on standby when not in use rather than turning them off, using up to £30 a year in electricity, or more if they have multiple consoles.

Big Energy Saving Week (20-24 October) is funded by DECC in collaboration with Energy Saving Trust and Citizens Advice Bureau. Other partners supporting the campaign include Global Action Plan, Age UK and ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England). The week will help householders to take practical steps to cut to their bills by checking they are on the best deal, switching tariff or supplier and taking up energy saving actions such as switching their appliances off standby mode.

The ‘Great British Appliance Check’

The number of appliances, electrical goods and personal electronics we buy is rising. Follow these steps to make sure you’re not using energy you don’t need.

  • Standby Savers – Fortunately there are a number of products available to help cut down your standby electricity consumption, such as standby savers that allow you to easily turn all of your appliances off from standby without having to reach for the plug.
  • Cold appliances Is your fridge-freezer 15 years or older? If it is, then the chances are that it could be using more electricity than required. As fridges, freezers and fridge-freezers are switched on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, it could be worth finding models that are more energy efficient and will save you money on electricity bills. Tenants can ask their landlord to buy a newer model if the current one is faulty or not performing efficiently. If it’s not possible to replace the model, then the following tips and advice can help save money on refrigeration:
  • Make sure the back of your fridge-freezer is ventilated and dust free – dusting should be done at least once a year to keep it running efficiently;
  • Make sure the fridge-freezer is out of direct sunlight from outside or other sources of heat from inside the home, such as your oven or boiler;
  • Make sure the door seal is not damaged
  • Check that it is cycling on and off as it should – ideally you should only be able to hear your fridge or freezer running 30-40% of the time; and
  • Don’t keep the fridge-freezer doors open longer than necessary.
  • Entertainment Over a quarter of electricity use (26 per cent) now goes towards entertainment equipment, such as TVs and games consoles. In addition, there is greater public appetite for bigger TVs with over half (54 per cent) of those buying TVs last year purchasing one 39 inches or over. Making sure TVs and other entertainment equipment is switched off when not in use and not on standby will bring savings on the electricity bill.
  • Lighting Lighting is a vital aspect of any home, especially during the darker winter evenings. Lighting makes up 16 per cent of household electricity consumption. By turning off the lights when they’re not needed you could save around £7 a year. If households want to go further, replacing all the remaining old-fashioned bulbs with CFLs and all the halogens with LEDs could typically save around £45 a year.For further information about saving energy in the home visit www.energysavingtrust.org.uk or call the Energy Saving Advice Service (England and Wales) on 0300 123 1234 or Home Energy Scotland (Scotland) on 0808 808 2282. Householders in Northern Ireland may be able to benefit from the Warm Homes scheme – call 0800 988 0559 for further details.  

For further information please contact:

Steven Flanagan 0141 333 0557 / 07557 210989 / sflanagan@webershandwick.com  

Eileen Clarke 0141 333 0557 / 07827 949569 / eclarke@webershandwick.com

Electricity use stats in the UK

Average UK domestic electricity usage split:

  • 26 per cent – Entertainment equipment
  • 18 per cent – Wet Appliances
  • 16 per cent – Cold appliances
  • 16 per cent – Lighting
  • 8 per cent – Computing equipment
  • 16 per cent – Cooking

About Big Energy Saving Week

  1. Big Energy Saving Week is supported by the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Citizens Advice Bureau, Energy Saving Trust, Age UK and ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England).
  2. Big Energy Saving Week is a national campaign to help people cut their fuel bills and get all the financial support they are entitled to.
  3. Big Energy Saving Week focuses on raising awareness of energy and efficiency issues among the general public through joint working between the voluntary sector and energy suppliers.
  4. There will be local events across the UK during Big Energy Saving Week which will be run by a network of Citizens Advice Bureaux and volunteers that are part of the Big Energy Saving Network.
  5. Further advice and information can be found at www.bigenergysavingweek.org.uk  or call the Energy Saving Advice Service (England, Northern Ireland and Wales) on 0300 123 1234 or Home Energy Scotland (Scotland) on 0808 808 2282.

About the Energy Saving Trust

Energy Saving Trust gives impartial, accurate and independent advice to households, communities and organisations on how to reduce carbon emissions, reduce fuel bills, use water more sustainably and drive smarter.

Energy Saving Trust works with governments, local authorities, communities, third sector organisations and businesses. Our activities include:

  • delivering or managing government programmes
  • testing low-carbon technology
  • certification and assurance for businesses and consumer goods
  • developing models and tools to gain further insight into energy efficiency.

About the Department for Energy and Climate Change

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) works to make sure the UK has secure, clean, affordable energy supplies and promote international action to mitigate climate change.

DECC is a ministerial department, supported by eight agencies and public bodies.

About Citizens Advice Bureau

The Citizens Advice service comprises a network of local bureaux, all of which are independent charities, the Citizens Advice consumer service and national charity Citizens Advice.

Together it helps people resolve their money, legal and other problems by providing information and advice and by influencing policymakers. For more information and to find your local bureau in England and Wales see the Citizens Advice website www.citizensadvice.org.uk

You can also get advice online at www.adviceguide.org.uk or by calling consumer advice on 08454 04 05 06 or 08454 04 05 05 for Welsh language speakers.

About Age UK

Age UK (www.ageuk.org.uk) believes that everyone should have the opportunity to make the most of later life, whatever their circumstances. We provide free information, advice and support to over six million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well-being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle.

Age UK will be doing everything it can to help older people keep warm this winter. The Charity’s vital work includes providing heat-saving home improvements and advice on staying warm. Age UK offers information and advice 365 days a year and older people and their families can call Age UK Advice free on 0800 169 65 65. 

About ACRE

ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) is the national body for the 38 rural community councils (RCCs) who make up the ACRE Network. We speak up for rural communities on the national stage and deliver projects that enable our communities to find innovative solutions to the challenges they face.

Our rural community councils – many of whom date back 90 years – reach 50,000 organisations at grassroots level. ACRE was formed in 1987 to bring the RCCs together under one umbrella, harnessing the strength of their experience to support our national work.

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