New EU labels for energy efficiency

The EU energy label gives us information about the energy consumption and other performance indicators of appliances such as washing machines, TV sets, and lamps. This makes it a useful guide for consumers. In March 2021, some appliances will boast a new EU energy label.

squirrel with energy certificate© BMWi

How much electricity does the TV use? How noisy is the new refrigerator? How much water is needed for the new washing machine? Information like this on an energy label is very useful for comparing different appliances. If a household chooses a highly efficient appliance, this can easily translate into energy savings of several hundred euros per year.

And consumers are well aware that this is good not only for the environment and the climate, but also for their personal finances. The energy labels play a key role in consumers' choices, with studies showing that roughly 80% of consumers take the energy label into account before making their decision. For more than 20 years, the energy label has supported the development of a market for energy-efficient products in Europe and demand for those products. This has also helped the efforts to mitigate climate change. Nowadays, energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly products are a guarantor for success on the market. This has led to enormous improvements in appliances' energy performance in recent years.

The energy label works: today, almost all appliances are in the most efficient categories

There are several product groups in which all, or almost all, new appliances find themselves in the higher efficiency categories. But how to choose the right product then? It is currently often impossible for consumers to make out any differences. What is missing are categories for even more efficient, more innovative appliances.

This is why the EU has decided to redefine the efficiency categories whilst also factoring in consumers' actual behaviour. The 'plus categories' A+ to A+++ will be abolished, ushering in the return to the original A to G scale. The highest category will remain empty for now, serving as an incentive for technical innovation. This means that, initially, only few appliances will make it into the A category. Appliances' actual energy efficiency won't change because of the new scale. It will still be the same as that of the devices currently grouped into the A+++ category. The new label serves to better highlight the differences that exist between the products.

There will also be a new QR code on the labels, which will take consumers to the new European EPREL database containing product information. Starting on 1 March, the energy label app (in German only) will make it possible to compare products selected by the consumer, and provide information on how to operate appliances in an energy-efficient way. Pictograms on the new labels also give additional information related to the product's sustainability, for instance its capacity, screen diagonal, noise profile, or water consumption.

So will we need to bring a calculator when buying a refrigerator?

Because of the changes made to the categories and the calculation methods, it is not possible to compare appliances bearing the old label against the freshly labelled ones. The limits for each category have changed, meaning that appliances falling into a certain category under the old system won’t necessarily all end up in the same category under the new system. For instance, old A+++ won't automatically translate into new B. But this does not pose a problem when comparing products as all products are labelled using the same criteria.

Beginning on 1 March 2021, the new EU energy label will first be used to refrigerators, freezers, wine storage units, dishwashers, washing machines, tumble dryers and electronic displays, including televisions. In September, lamps will also receive the new label. Other product groups are to follow gradually, up until 2030.

'Two is better than one' does not apply to energy labels

Won’t that be confusing? After 1 March 2021, sellers have 14 working days to change the old energy labels for the new ones. During this time, there may be some overlap, as some manufacturers are already putting the new label inside the boxes. However, the new label must not be displayed by retailers before 1 March 2021.

You can find an overview of the exact timeline, the most important changes brought in by the new EU energy label, and an explanatory video here (in German only).