Please note: this information was current as of January 2008 but is still a useful guide to today's market.
The electricity costs of running a large appliance can, over its lifetime, add up to more than it cost you to purchase it. So choosing an energy-efficient model will save you money. And because most electricity generation produces greenhouse gases, it’s better for the environment too.
Our tests often show that energy-efficient models don’t have to be more expensive to buy than those with higher energy consumption. But even if you do pay a bit more upfront for a model with more stars, its lower running costs may more than make up for it.
Comparing the energy efficiency of large electrical appliances is easy in Australia. Air conditioners, clothes dryers, dishwashers, freezers, fridges and washing machines must carry an energy rating label, which allows you to quickly compare the efficiency of different models.
The labelling scheme is run by state, territory and federal governments, and the test procedures used are based on Australian standards.
How to use the energy label
The label gives you two bits of information:
- A star rating from one to six stars that tells you how efficient the model is — the more stars the better.
- The actual electricity consumption (in kilowatt hours; kWh) of the model per hour or per year, depending on the appliance. The yearly consumption is an estimate based on a particular usage pattern (for example, washing machines are assumed to run seven times a week on a certain program).
The star rating takes into account the size of an appliance — for example, it’s based on the electricity consumption per kilo of washing, or per place setting for dishwashers.
Often it’s easier for a larger model to be more efficient (and therefore have more stars) than a smaller one. However, since it is bigger, its overall energy consumption is often higher than that of the smaller model.
So it’s important you think about the right size for your needs first, and then compare the star ratings of models within that size.
For example, if a 350 L fridge is what you need, there’s not much point getting a 500 L model just because it has more stars, because it may still use more electricity and cost you more to run.
What the label isn't
- It doesn’t give a guarantee of a model’s reliability, safety or durability.
- It’s not a seal of efficiency — all the models in the product types covered by the label have to carry one, whether they’re efficient or not.
- It doesn’t tell you exactly how much energy the model will use in your household — the figures are comparative, based on specific usage scenarios.
Find more information on the star rating on the government's website.
Top Energy Saver Award
A new label was launched in March 2004 to complement the star rating label. It’s called TESAW (Top Energy Saver Award) and is a joint government and industry initiative. The label is awarded to the most energy-efficient models in their product type in a specific year, and the criteria are reviewed each year.
Find more information on TESAW on the government's website.
Minimum Energy Performance Standards
MEPS stands for Minimum Energy Performance Standard. If a product is covered by a MEPS, all models sold in Australia are guaranteed to meet the minimum energy efficiency criteria defined by the standard. So a MEPS gives a kind of baseline energy use from which all models have to start, while the energy label tells you which go further than that, by having more stars.
MEPS for electric storage water heaters, fridges and freezers and some types of air conditioners have been in place for several years.
Find more information on MEPS on the government's website.