Energy Saving White Goods
Rising energy costs have put the squeeze on many households in the last few years, while energy suppliers blamed higher wholesale prices and government levies for bigger bills.
According to MoneySuperMarket research, more than two thirds of households have turned off their heating and endured the cold to save money on energy.
There are other ways to lower your bills without sacrificing comfort, though, such as switching your appliances for newer, more energy efficient models.
Old washing machines, refrigerators and freezers with poor energy ratings could be costing you more money than necessary each time you use them.
Here's a guide to how the ratings work, how energy efficient white goods can save you money and how your old appliances could be costing you dear.
Energy efficiency ratings
Electrical appliances such as ovens, dishwashers, dryers and fridges all have to carry an EU Energy Label which indicates how efficient (or inefficient) they are.
Appliances are graded from A to G on their efficiency, with A being the most efficient and G being the least. Fridge freezers have three extra ratings at the top end, A+, A++ and A+++.
The grade is based on how many units of energy they use per hour (their kWh consumption). The lower their kWh consumption is, the more efficient the appliance is.
A sticker on each appliance shows a series of colour co-ordinated bars from A+++ to G.
An appliance may also carry an Energy Savings Trust Recommended Certification Mark, awarded to only the most efficient appliances. The Energy Savings Trust is an impartial service which gives advice on how to reduce carbon emissions and water usage.
Ratings do vary from one appliance to another though. For example, washing machines have three efficiency ratings, for energy consumption, washing and spinning. Washing machines with an A for each of the three ratings (AAA rated machines) are the most efficient and will save you the most money.
If you're not going to upgrade your appliance to a more efficient model, you can improve its efficiency by lowering the temperature you wash at, and only washing full loads (or using the half-load setting, if there is one, when appropriate).
Refrigerators and freezers
As you have to leave your fridge and freezer on around the clock, it makes sense to make sure they are as efficient as possible.
Ratings for appliances that keep things cold work a little differently to other white goods, however, as they are rated on how energy efficient they are in relation to their size, rather than their kWh consumption.
Generally speaking, this means the bigger the fridge or freezer's internal volume, the more it will cost to run.
Hanging your wet washing on an outdoor washing line is the most efficient way to dry your clothes because it's free, but not everyone has the space and sometimes the Great British weather can be prohibitive.
If you can't avoid using a tumble dryer, upgrading to an A-rated model will make sure you're getting the most for your money.
As a general rule, any electrical appliance which is used to heat something - be it a tumble dryer, hair straighteners or kettles - will potentially use a significant amount of energy, unless it's an energy efficient model.
Again, doing the dishes by hand is perhaps more efficient as it uses less water and energy, but if you can't avoid using a dishwasher then make sure yours has as high a rating as possible.
Also, make sure that your dishwasher is as full as possible before you put it on - but don't overload it or you might not get everything clean.
Only electric ovens will have an EU energy label, rated from A to G for efficiency. You won't find one of these labels on a gas oven or a microwave.