How to choose an energy-efficient appliance

1 Sep 2020
4 min read

Making the right choice can help you save big on your energy bills and lower your carbon footprint.

A new appliance such as a washing machine or fridge-freezer is a big purchase, and hopefully one you’ll only have to make a few times in your life. These types of appliances are essential for everyday life, and because we rely on them so heavily they account for a significant chunk of our energy bill – simply leaving them in standby mode accounts for around 10% of a typical home’s energy costs, and that’s when they’re not being used! So when it’s time to buy a new appliance, it pays to make sure it’s as efficient as possible. Here’s what to look for.

Understand energy labels

All appliances must show an Energy Label which indicates their their efficiency rating. These run from G (the least efficient) to A (the most efficient). These ratings are based on the amount of energy each device uses. The fewer units of energy (measured in kilowatt hours, or kWh) an appliance uses, the better its rating. Obviously, you want to go for the highest-rated appliance possible. However…

Consider appliance size

Energy ratings are generally categorised by the product’s size, which means that two differently-sized appliances with the same energy rating might use different amounts of electricity. As the Energy Saving Trust explains, an A rated 180-litre fridge freezer could cost only £43 a year to run, whereas a larger 525-litre fridge freezer with a better A+ rating could cost £57 a year to run.

As such, it’s important you choose the right size of appliance for your needs, as an unnecessarily large item could cancel out any savings. Using a large washing machine if you never have a full load, for example, will just waste energy, water and money.

Look for additional energy-saving settings

Even the most highly-rated appliances are not created equally, and some devices will offer further opportunities for savings through dedicated eco-settings. These include a variety of options that adjust the temperature, water level or cycle time that can  lower energy and water consumption. If you frequently find yourself chucking single items of laundry into the machine for a quick freshen up, or your cooking gear only ever needs a light rinse in the dishwasher, then you should look for an appliance that offers these programs. Learn more about eco-settings here.

Don’t be put off by purchase costs

Energy-efficient appliances are often more expensive than their standard counterparts, and as appliances are already pricey this can understandably put prospective buyers off. But appliances come with two price tags: the upfront cost and the ‘hidden’ cost of operating the appliance over its lifetime. Consider this: an A fridge freezer costs around £38 a year to run, according to Energy Local, while a standard A-rated version costs £76, and a B-rated version costs £114. Fridge-freezers have an average lifespan of around 15 years, so choosing an A appliance over a B could save around £1,140 in running costs over its lifespan – certainly enough to offset the cost of the more efficient choice.

Get smart

As the IoT (internet of things) becomes a growing part of our lives, it’s no surprise that appliances are touting increasingly fancy smart features. A fridge-freezer of tumble dryer with built-in WiFi might sound absurd, but if you’re committed to lowering your carbon footprint and can afford the outlay for such an appliance, these features can be a money -saving boon. They work by activating when there is surplus renewable energy generation on the grid network, so a unit of power is cleaner and cheaper (if you have a suitable time of use tariff). Electric car charging at night is one example of this.

And they come with a host of useful features. Smart fridges, for example, can let you see inside without opening the door – perfect for reducing the energy consumption of big families and the kids’ frequent hunt for snacks. Smart dishwashers tout ultra-customisable settings designed for every kind of cleaning requirement, while water-based smart appliances, like washing machines, are able to automatically detect faults and leaks. These types of appliances will become increasingly mainstream, so you might want to consider making the leap when you make your next appliance purchase.

The bottom line

Purchasing an appliance is a big outlay, so it’s tempting to go for what on the face of it seems to be the most affordable option. However, it’s important to consider future running costs as well. Taking a long-term view of your purchase will help you save on your energy bills and reduce the amount of energy you use, which is vital in the fight against climate change.

Note: This article has been updated to reflect changes to the The Energy Label scheme



The information in this article was correct at the time of writing and is provided for guidance only. Please see the full disclaimer in our terms and conditions.

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