Products and appliances
Energy ratings labels on appliances are generally given to products based on size categories. The idea is to enable you to compare between two similarly sized products.
This means two differently sized appliances with the same energy rating may use quite different amounts of electricity. For instance an A rated 180-litre fridge freezer could cost only £39 a year to run whereas a larger 525-litre fridge freezer with a better A+ rating would cost £51 a year to run. That’s £12 a year more.
In trying to save energy it is therefore best to look for the product with the best energy rating for the size of product you require.
On average UK households spends between £45 - £80 a year each powering appliances left in standby mode or not in use. This is the energy used by certain appliances when they are not in use and not switched off at the plug. That’s quite a lot of money to spend powering your microwaves clock display!
As well as standby power, other new additions to the average household’s collection of electrical goods such as broadband modems, broadband routers, digi-boxes and cordless telephones remain using low levels of electricity when not being used. These are not items that we tend to think to turn off, but can gradually go on to consume a great deal of electricity over the year. For instance a broadband modem router can consume as much as £8 worth of electricity if left on for an entire year.
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.
Recent regulations specify that all electronic products sold within the EU after 2010 cannot have a standby power greater than 1W, which means we won’t have to worry as much in future about the standby consumption of our products. However, whilst the average standby consumption of new products is going down, households are being filled with more and more electronic gadgets, so it is still worth looking at your standby energy usage throughout your home.
Cookers are getting more efficient, and we recommend ovens that have an 'A' energy rating so they are the most efficient of all; hobs that carry the logo are highly energy-efficient too. A new A+ rated electric oven will consume 40% less energy than a B rated oven.
Microwave ovens are often a much more energy efficient way of cooking items than in the oven. This is because microwaves oven use energy to directly heat your food, whereas electric ovens must also heat the air inside the oven.
Dishwashers can take up a significant chunk of your electricity bill, costing on average around £40 a year to run. Over a year, it costs around £12 less to run a typical new dishwasher than it does an old, inefficient machine of the same size- and it will use less water.
Fridges, freezers and fridge-freezers are switched on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so it's well worth finding models that are energy efficient. Typically choosing an A+ fridge freezer over the market average will save you around £57 in energy bills over the lifetime of the product. However as the energy rating is based upon classification by size, a smaller A rated fridge could use less energy than a larger A+ rated fridge. You can compare the total energy consumption of appliances by looking for their yearly energy consumption in kWh / annum displayed on the bottom right of its energy label.
Kettles are one of the most commonly used appliances in the kitchen. ECO kettles that only boil the amount of water required can use 20% less energy than a conventional electric kettle. On average a UK household boils the kettle 1,500 times a year.
Tumble dryers: Drying clothes outdoors on a washing line or indoors on a rack costs nothing and uses no energy so it is the ideal way to dry your clothes. But if you need to use a tumble dryer, they use a great deal of energy, so choose one with a good energy label rating such as a B, and it will cost less to run, helping you to reduce your energy bill. Choose one that has a sensor that tells when your clothes are dry enough, preventing your clothes from being over dried and the dryer running when it doesn’t need to.
- Gas tumble driers are one of the cheapest and most environmentally friendly type of drier to run. But this type of drier can be slightly more expensive to install as it needs a gas connection.
- Electric heat pump tumble driers are also very efficient as they recycle the heat from the ventilation tube back into the drier, but take away the water vapour from the air.
Washing machines: An energy efficient machine will save you money on to your electricity bill and, if you have a meter, your water bill too.
Televisions, set-top boxes, digital TV recorders, DVDs and DAB radios combined are responsible for around a fifth of a typical home's electricity bill. Choosing the most efficient models helps to keep your energy bills down, so you save money and do your bit for the environment.
Digital radios or DAB (Digital Audio Broadcasting) radios have been one of the biggest-selling consumer electronic products in the last few years – with superior sound quality, a wide range of extra channels and rapidly falling prices. Digital radios generally consume more power than their analogue equivalents. Intertek testing for Which? 2006 showed an average digital radio to have a standby consumption of around 5 watts, which is around five times higher than analogue models. But the technology is rapidly improving with newer radios being generally more efficient.
Digital television recorders: Recording your favourite shows doesn’t have to cost more in energy bills. In most homes, entertainment equipment accounts for about 10% of your electricity bill.
Televisions can be the most power-hungry of all entertainment appliances, particularly the larger ones. The larger a television is the more energy it will consume, regardless of its energy rating. For instance, an A-rated 22" LCD TV would typically cost £5 a year to run whereas an A-rated 60" TV would cost £20. Choosing a smaller TV generally means choosing a more efficient TV. While it's tempting to go for a larger screen, larger screens show up the imperfections of non-high-definition TV signals and make it easier to notice the blockiness of images from DVD and blu-ray videos. So you might get a better viewing experience with a smaller TV.
- HD and 3D TV: Many homes now have cable HD TV and most televisions on the market nowadays are HD ready. HD TVs have more pixels per square inch of screen area and therefore tend to consume more energy than SD (Standard Density) televisions. Buying a smaller SD TV is likely to use less energy than an HD TV, but with the move towards HD broadcasting you might wish to consider how long into the future you are happy to continue using an SD TV.
- LED, LCD and plasma screen are most common forms of flat-screen TVs on the market. LED and LCD TVs are not as good for seeing the screen from sideward angles, but otherwise there is little difference between the picture quality of these and plasma screen TVs. However, plasma screen TVs tend not to come in smaller sizes, and generally use more energy than similar sized LED or LCD TVs.
Energy-saving plugs and sockets come in a number of forms; they can come with timers or a single off switch. You can plug televisions and computing equipment into them to reduce standby power and make it easier for you to switch everything off with a single switch. On average a UK home spends between £45 - £80 a year powering electronic goods left in standby. You can save on your energy bills by ensuring that you turn this equipment off at the plug after when it is not being used.
Household computers, printers, monitors and laptops on average make up around 13% of electricity around the home. Choosing an energy-efficient computer can have a real impact on your carbon dioxide emissions and your energy costs. If someone else is in charge of buying your equipment, ask about getting a laptop instead of a desktop.
Desktop and laptop PCs: Laptops typically uses 85% less electricity over a year than desktop PCs do, so they're already the more energy-efficient choice. If your computing needs are met by a laptop, then why not consider one as an alternative to a desktop PC? With smaller components and screens, laptops use much less electricity than desktop computers. Choosing a laptop over a desktop and reducing standby could save up to £16 per year.
The MarketWatch programme, co-financed by the European Commission, aims to increase the level of compliance of energy-using products across the EU through the surveillance and testing of these products. The programme is supported by 16 partners, including the Energy Saving Trust, and aims to help consumers reduce their energy bills while also ensuring a level playing field for manufacturers and traders. Find our more today by visiting the website.
Making electrical items uses a lot of energy and valuable materials, including precious metals like gold and silver. Electrical equipment can also contain chemicals like lead and mercury. These chemicals can get into the environment and harm people or animals if items are not disposed of carefully.
Items which have the image of a wheelie bin with a cross (below) on them should not be disposed of using the general household rubbish collection. These items include everything from large white goods to energy saving light-bulbs. By keeping waste electrical equipment separate from other waste, the hazardous substances can be removed and other parts can be recycled rather than sent to landfill.
Disposing of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE):
If you are buying new electrical appliances, retailers are obliged by law to either:
- take your old appliances off you for free in store
- tell you where you can take your old item for recycling free of charge.
Many retailers offer collection of old appliances from your home, although they are not obliged to do this.
Alternatively you can take your old equipment to your nearest recycling point, or ask for your local authority to collect your bulky items – some may charge for this service.