A guide to energy-efficient white goods
An old or inefficient appliance is more than likely costing you more money than you want. But that need not be the case
What are energy-efficient white goods?
Energy-efficient white goods are defined as household appliances which use less electricity than less economical, older models.
Energy bills can take a sizeable chunk out of household budgets, and you might not realise that old washing machines, fridges and freezers with poor energy ratings could be costing you dear.
Upgrading doesn’t mean ditching perfectly decent white goods right away – but changing them for better models once their time is up.
And while highly efficient appliances may cost a little more, the additional savings mean you should soon recoup the initial outlay.
To help you make the switch to a more energy-efficient home, this guide explains how the ratings work, and how updating white goods can save you money.
How do energy efficiency ratings work?
All electrical appliances – such as dishwashers, fridges and washing machines – have to carry a Europe-wide energy label which indicates how efficient (or inefficient) they are.
After a revamp of the grading system in 2021, new appliances are officially graded on a scale from G (the least efficient) up to A (the most efficient).
But you may still see some shops selling white goods using the old grading system which from G (the least efficient) to A+++ (the most efficient).
That can be confusing when you're trying to get the best, most energy-efficient appliance for your money. But hopefully we can help you make sense of it in this guide.
What can be said with absolute certainty is that in both ratings systems, the grade a device gets is based on the amount of energy it uses per hour.
The lower its kWh (kilowatt hours) consumption, the more efficient the appliance is – and the better its rating.
How can I find out the rating of an appliance?
Looking at the energy-efficiency ratings is vital when shopping for new white goods, so keep an eye out for the coloured sticker on the appliance, showing its rating.
The most efficient devices are colour-coded green, with the least efficient in red.
In addition, the Energy Saving Trust (EST) has an extensive register of energy efficient products. Appliances which appear on this database will carry an EST ‘stamp of endorsement’.
The EST is an impartial service which gives advice on how to reduce carbon emissions and water usage.
How to choose an energy-efficient washing machine
When buying a washing machine, be aware that new appliances are rated from A to G under the ratings system that was officially adopted in 2021.
This scale replaced the old grading system that ran from A+++ to D. However, many shops are still using the old grades.
Ratings are based on the energy consumption of a standard cycle, along with the efficiency of the wash and spin cycle.
Energy-saving tips for washing machines
Even if you’re not in a position to upgrade your washing machine to a more efficient model, there are still steps you can take to improve energy efficiency:
Try a 30 degree wash rather than 40 degrees
Only wash full loads – or use the half-load or eco settings
How to choose an energy-efficient tumble dryer
As tumble dryers use a lot of energy, it’s best to seek out alternatives wherever you can.
Hanging wet laundry out on a washing line is the most energy-efficient way to get stuff dry as it’s completely free, though this may not be an option if you don’t have space – plus we can’t always rely on the Great British weather.
If you need a tumble dryer, the key is to look for a model with an A-grade rating, which will help you keep your energy bills under control.
Tips for using a tumble dryer:
Be sure to clean the lint filter after every few uses – this will help it run more efficiently
Only use it with a full load
Make sure your washing is untangled before putting it in so items can tumble easily
How to choose an energy-efficient fridge or freezer
As you have to leave your fridge and freezer switched on 24 hours a day, it’s particularly important to make sure they are as efficient as possible.
Every fridge and freezer sold today must have an energy-efficiency rating. As with tumble dryers and washing machines, the scale adopted in 2021 grades fridge freezers from A to G. A is the most efficient, while G is the least efficient.
You may find that some retailers are still using the old scale, though. in which case they'll grade fridges and freezers from A+++ to G.
If your fridge is over 10 years old – or seems inefficient – you might want to think about replacing it before it stops working altogether, as older models will have much higher running costs than today’s A-rated appliances.
It’s worth noting that fridges and freezers are rated on how efficient they are in relation to their size – rather than their kWh consumption.
Generally speaking, this means the bigger the internal volume of the fridge or freezer, the more it will cost to run. With this in mind, you should choose the smallest fridge – or fridge freezer – you can, as this should be cheaper to run. This might, for example, mean buying a smaller B-rated model, rather than a large A-rated one.
Tips for using a fridge or freezer:
Don’t overfill it
Keep it away from heaters and keep the back clear
Repair a broken fridge seal to keep it working efficiently
Be aware that freezers function most efficiently when around two thirds full
Remember to defrost regularly, and don’t leave the door open for long – which causes ice build-up
How to choose an energy efficient dishwasher
In the past, it was more efficient to do the dishes by hand, but you may now be able to use less heat and water if you invest in a highly efficient dishwasher.
Once again, the key is to look for a model with a high energy-efficiency rating.
Tips for using a dishwasher:
Make sure your dishwasher is as full as possible before you press go
Check that it’s loaded correctly, and not over-filled or some items won’t get clean
Make use of any eco settings it has
If you are washing the dishes by hand, don’t leave the hot water running. Fill up the sink with hot suds instead, which will save you both water and energy