Labelling for comparing energy consumption

As a general rule of thumb: the ‘greener’ the label of the energy efficiency class, the lower your electricity bill.

As a general rule of thumb: the ‘greener’ the label of the energy efficiency class, the lower your electricity bill.

The label details product specifications, such as energy consumption, capacity and noise emission, and therefore enables consumers to conduct quick comparisons within a product category.

Various different energy labels are used around the world. In the USA, appliances labelled with the Energy Star use 20 – 30 percent less energy than required by law. The Energy Star has been adopted by many countries around the world, although the legal requirements and criteria vary considerably between countries. In contrast, the EU energy label, which has to be used in all European Union member states, enables consumers to directly compare consumption figures in certain mandatory categories. The labelling was introduced in the mid-1990s and has been regularly updated.

To be language-neutral and directly comparable, all key elements are represented by pictograms.

Gaining a better understanding of the EU energy label

On founding the European Union, the member states committed to joint climate protection. One of the strategies they adopted was a transnational obligation to label household appliances with their energy consumption details. Not only does this allow consumers to make direct comparisons, it also acts as an incentive for manufacturers to develop increasingly energy efficient appliances.

  • 1998: with the introduction of the EU energy label in Germany, energy efficiency becomes an increasingly important purchasing criterion, now that consumption and performance can be instantly compared.
  • 2010: having initially only been used for refrigerators, freezers, washing machines and dishwashers, the energy label is now introduced for other household appliances. Due to the enormous differences within the, then, top energy efficiency class A, classes A+, A++ and A+++ are introduced.
  • 2011: the European Union requires retailers to label all refrigerators and freezers with the new label.
  • 2012: only refrigerators and freezers with an energy efficiency class of A+ or higher can be manufactured.
  • Currently, the EU Commission is working on a new classification, because the energy efficiency of some appliances is now significantly below the A+++ threshold, yet cannot currently be classified for comparison.

The EU energy label uses a clear colour scale, from red to dark green, to indicate the appliance's energy efficiency class. For refrigerators and freezers, it provides information about annual energy consumption, total usable capacity of the refrigerator/freezer compartments, and lowest temperatures. An icon also indicates noise emission.

The smaller the appliance, the lower its energy consumption. As a result, you can only directly compare appliances within the same category, i.e. the appliance's capacity, type and features must be somewhat similar. Within a product category, there are often clear differences in terms of energy consumption, and the higher the energy efficiency class, the greater the potential for savings.

A better energy efficiency class does not only confer financial benefits; using energy-saving appliances also conserves energy resources and minimises CO2 emissions.

In the past, the major manufacturers for the food industry developed their own standards, and certified their appliances according to these. Performance and energy consumption were jointly evaluated.

Nowadays, faced with rising costs, energy efficiency during storage and production is becoming an increasingly important concern for the commercial sector. Currently, an energy label for commercial use is being developed.

How to read the energy label

To help you compare appliances, here's a detailed explanation of the EU energy label icons.

Energy and environmental protection in Europe

The European Committee of Domestic Equipment Manufacturers (CECED) provides information about European commitment to environmental protection and saving energy.