Every home is filled with electrical appliances and as a group, they can account for up to 30% of the home’s energy usage. As energy prices rise, and our reliance on home appliances increases, choosing appliances that are energy efficient becomes ever more important.
Energy rating labels provide an independent verification on how energy efficient an appliance is. “Although energy labels are optional for appliances manufactured in South Africa, it is not wise to purchase an appliance without one, as these could cost you lots of money to run. If you cannot see the label on the appliance, it is always a good idea to search the model on the Internet and find the rating in order to choose a truly efficient one,” says Mercia De Jager from appliance manufacturer, Miele.
- The South African Energy Label: The current South African Energy Label provides a rating from A (the most energy efficient) to a G (the least energy efficient) for various appliances, including dishwashers, washing machines and electric ovens. In addition to the rating, this label should carry an energy consumption number in kilowatt-hours. It is often more useful to compare this number between models than to compare the letter rating.
- The European Union Energy Label: This label is mostly seen on appliances that are imported from Europe, such as Miele. The look and ratings are similar to the South African label, so a B-rating on the EU label for example, will be the same to that on the SA label. The main difference however, is that the EU label is more helpful in that it has added higher grades as appliances have become increasingly more efficient – from A+, to A++ and A+++. Also, the EU label includes other helpful information, such as the water consumption on washing machines and dishwashers, and the noise levels (measured in dB or decibels), which is especially great for appliances that will be used in open-plan living areas.
- The Energy Star Label: Developed in the US, the Energy Star Label is blue in colour and in South Africa, it appears mostly on imported computers and entertainment equipment. Although the label does not provide any further grading, making it impossible to compare different products with the same label, you can rest assured that if you purchase something with an Energy Star label, it is fairly energy efficient in its particular class of products.
Upgrading to Energy Efficient Appliances
“When it comes time to replace your old appliances with new ones, then it is essential to think about both the purchase price and the energy requirements of the appliance in question. Although energy efficient models usually cost more, they will save you energy and money over the course of the appliance’s life-cycle, so the initial spend is actually a good investment,” she says.
Running costs can add up over time, so it’s worth taking the time to calculate the running costs of your appliances. “For example, it is estimated that on average, cooking appliances account for up to 11% of a South African home’s total electrical consumption, while refrigeration uses up to 8%. If you manage to reduce the energy consumption of these appliances, you can greatly reduce the charges on your monthly utility bills – a saving that can add up over time.”
Mercia says that the best way to determine the energy requirements of any appliance is to look out for its energy ratings label, but that it is essential to understand the energy usage beforehand.
Understanding energy usage
Energy usage in all appliances is measured in watts: “One thousand watts is equal to one kilowatt. Electricity consumption is measured in kWh (kilowatts per hour). One kWh means that one kilowatt (1000 watts) have been used over a period of one hour. This in turn means that a 1kw appliance requires one kilowatt of electricity to operate for one hour. As such, the higher the wattage of an appliance, the more electricity it requires to function.”
Although some appliances have much higher energy requirements, Mercia notes that it is essential to also take into account how long you use them for every day. “Although a tumble dryer uses much more power than a television, since you use the tumble dryer for far less time every day, they both require similar energy requirements. For example, a 3.3 kW tumble dryer used for 20 minutes will require 0.66 kWh, while a 0.2 kW television used for 4 hours will require 0.6 kWh. So it is important to factor the usage of the appliance in as well.”
Mercia says that it is imperative to choose an appliance that serves your needs. “Choose an appliance that can accommodate your requirements – for example, it is no use investing in a huge fridge/freezer if it is just you and your partner living in your home. A smaller model will serve your needs far better and use a lot less energy.”