All you need to know when buying products that plug into the mains.
Energy labels indicate the rating of electrical appliances in terms of their electricity consumption on a scale from A to G, where Class A (in green) comprises the most efficient appliances and Class G (in red) the least efficient. This rating has allowed us to choose appliances that consume less energy and thus save money in the long run.
However, the number of Class A appliances has been increasing with recent technological developments, making it necessary to create different scales for different kinds of devices and, in some cases, to add classes above the maximum efficiency level: Class A+, A++, and A+++.
This heterogeneity of criteria has led to a lot of confusion among consumers. Thus, in July 2017 the European Union decided to suppress these classes over the next few years and revert to the A-G rating system (without A+, A++ and A+++ classes). But there will be a transitional period in which the two rating systems will operate simultaneously.
Reverting to the A-G rating system will be quite simple for six types of products: refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers, TVs, lamps, and light bulbs. It is expected that these products will have made the transition to the new rating system by 2020 - even in online stores.
But for ovens, extractor hoods, air conditioners, fans, tumble dryers and vacuum cleaners, the system is not expected to become fully homogeneous before 2024, so you should be particularly careful when buying these appliances. This is because appliances that are now rated as Class A+++ may be downgraded to Class B under the new system. What is worse, in the case of space and water heaters, the "reform" is not expected to be completed before 2025-2030.
Initially, Class A (and in some cases, Class B) will be shown in gray, as there are no appliances yet that meet the required level of energy efficiency. The aim is to keep these classes up to date for a longer period of time, without the need to add new efficiency classes for at least 10 years.
Following the same logic, as appliances become more efficient and those that are deemed less efficient disappear from the market, lower efficiency classes will also be shown in gray on new energy labels, as we can see in the example below.
In addition to updating energy labels, the European Union has decided to set up an online product database, to be launched in 2019. The idea is for manufacturers to provide comprehensive information on the products they bring to the market, including their respective energy features (and rating).
This database, which will have separate areas for users and manufacturers, will be an excellent tool to compare products and find out about the latest innovations in the market, as well as to check prices and energy efficiency evolution trends.
In addition to the energy rating of electrical appliances, there are also energy "labels" for windows, elevators and even real estate - the famous Energy Certificate.
Window labeling was implemented in 2013 and renamed CLASS+ Windows in 2018. This rating is also applied to elevators (as well as escalators and walking belts) under the name CLASS+ Elevators, allowing individual and corporate consumers to make better-informed decisions about the energy efficiency of their homes and commercial buildings.
In the case of windows, the greater their capacity to reduce thermal losses in winter and overheating in summer, the better their energy rating. These labels also include information on the windows' insulation capacity: acoustic attenuation, air infiltration, and sunlight incidence.
As for lifts, labels include - besides their energy rating - information on annual energy consumption, type of engine, lighting system, and performance both in standby and in operation.
Energy certification became mandatory for real estate in 2009 - whenever you sell a property, you must present the respective Energy Certificate. The certification is carried out by specialized technicians who evaluate criteria such as window insulation, the presence of solar panels, and other factors that make the property more or less environmentally friendly. Because energy efficiency is just that: avoiding waste so as to minimize the environmental footprint.
The European Union announced its first electrical appliance labeling strategy in 1979, with the goal of encouraging consumers to buy the most energy-efficient options on the market. Initially, member states were free to set their own energy rating rules, provided that labels had an identical format across the EU.
The first label focused on technical and energy consumption details obtained by standardized tests, but did not include information on the relative efficiency of the appliance - that is, it did not compare it with equivalent models. Moreover, these labels were entirely textual, without any images or pictograms, which made it difficult to understand them immediately.
After several updates, energy labels evolved into a much more visual information package, with virtually no text and an increasingly demanding rating scale. Besides the appliance's energy efficiency class, these labels included additional information on electricity/water consumption, noise, performance, and capacity.
The introduction of energy labels has brought several benefits to consumers and the environment, while also challenging manufacturers to reinvent their methods and produce better appliances. Nowadays, energy efficiency labels must be available even for remote or online purchases, when consumers cannot see the appliances live.
The goal is to achieve the target set by the EU for 2030: a 27% increase in energy efficiency.