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What’s in a star? Energy efficiency ratings explained

February 8, 2018


Most of us understand the basic principle behind the energy efficiency rating system — the more stars, the more efficient the appliance — but what’s the real difference between 7 stars and 10? And how is energy efficiency measured? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you make an informed choice when purchasing an appliance, and can have a significant impact on your electricity bills.


Why is energy efficiency important? 
According to the Federal Government’s YourHome guide to environmentally sustainable homes, electrical appliances, including the fridge and TV, are responsible for 33% of your household energy consumption (and around 45% of household greenhouse gas emissions).


That’s a big chunk of your bill, and highlights the importance of running energy efficient appliances where possible.


What is the energy rating system?

Introduced into Victoria and NSW in 1986, the energy rating system is now mandatory throughout Australia for the following appliances: dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, refrigerators, freezers, single-phase air conditioners, computer monitors and televisions.


The system rates the efficiency of appliances from 1 – 10 stars, with 10 being super-efficient and 1 being very poor. The aim is to encourage consumers to buy more energy efficient appliances, which in turn increases demand and encourages manufacturers to produce more energy efficient appliances.


What makes an appliance energy efficient?

Put simply, an energy efficient appliance uses less electricity to achieve the same level of performance as a similar model of the same size or capacity, thereby costing less money to run. The energy rating label and star system allows you, the consumer, to compare appliances not only on the basis of retail price, but on running costs over time.


How do I read the energy rating label?

The label contains two pieces of crucial information about the appliance: the energy consumption figure and the star rating.

The energy consumption figure is an estimate of the amount of energy (in kilowatts per hour) the appliance will consume in a year based on an assumption about average daily usage. Obviously this figure is only an estimate: actual usage, the climate you live in and even by things like the energy efficiency of your home in general will impact on the amount of kwh used per year.


The star rating is fairly obvious; as discussed above, the more stars, the more energy efficient the appliance. Televisions, computer monitors, refrigerators, air conditioners, dishwashers, washing machines and dryers can have a maximum of 10 stars. Most other appliances have a maximum star rating of 6.


How is the star rating calculated?

Star ratings are calculated using algorithms defined by the Australian and New Zealand Standards that measure energy consumption and performance. As appliances become more efficient, the algorithms are adapted to incorporate the new criteria. This is why we’ve now got a 10-star rating system, when once the maximum energy efficiency rating was 6 stars.


Do energy ratings really make a difference?

Well, yes. As much of the above indicates, the energy rating system has contributed to an increase in demand for energy efficient appliances, and a subsequent increase in the manufacture of energy efficient appliances. And quantity is not the only element to be affected; the quality of the appliances has improved to such an extent that a further 4 stars have been added to the ratings system.


For the consumer, the energy rating system has added significantly to the information that is available about an appliance and how it stacks up next to comparative models in terms of price, efficiency and running costs over time.


One of the key lessons of the energy efficiency system is that basing your purchasing decisions on price alone is not necessarily going to save you money. If the cheaper appliance is less energy efficient, before too long the running costs could considerably outweigh any initial retail savings.


For a complete explanation of the energy rating system, plus lots of good advice for those in the market for an appliance, you can’t go past the Federal Government’s Energy Rating website.

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