Understanding Energy Efficiency Labels

It’s time for a home remodel. And remodeling usually means new appliances. Farewell 1970’s-era avocado green refrigerator, hello sleek stainless steel smart fridge. There was certainly a time when a homeowner’s only considerations in purchasing new appliances were “Will this match my decor?” and “Am I getting a good deal?” But in the present era, there’s another factor that consumers must take into account.

Is it energy efficient?

The polar ice caps are melting at an alarming rate and there is no longer any doubt that the environmental degradation we’ve seen in the last century is due to human activity. It’s simple to blame industry for the brunt of the destruction — especially companies that continue to pollute the planet, even in light of the evidence — but if we’re not actively discouraging these companies through activism or capitalistic avoidance,  we have a role in perpetuating those industries and the destruction they wreak on the planet.

When we’re shopping around for new appliances at the tail end of a remodel, it’s important to look at each item’s energy efficiency rankings. Being mindful about home energy usage applies to everything from faucets to range hoods to residential water pumps. It’s important to remember that appliance rankings depend on different factors. While a refrigerator’s environmental impact, for example, might be judged by how much electricity it uses, the environmental impact of a water pump must also take into consideration whether it will corrode over time and pollute the earth. Water pumps from brands like Grundfos, which produces in excess of 16 million pumps every year, are made of materials that are recyclable and will not corrode. That’s 16 million water pumps that will not poison our children.

Whether you’re buying a large appliance like a water pump or something smaller, it’s important understand the various energy efficiency labels and purchase accordingly.

Endorsement Labels

Endorsement labels can be thought of as a seal of approval. They don’t show efficiency ratings on the label. The most well-known endorsement label is Energy Star, figure A above, a label known for its stringent qualification requirements. Companies who get blessed with an Energy Star partnership usually have cause to celebrate, both for the seal’s projected positive impact on their sales and for their gift to the planet. Energy Star was established in 1992 in the US and is used in Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Japan, Canada, and the EU. There are other endorsement labels in other countries, like figures B, C, and D from China, Hong Kong, and South Korea respectively. The important thing to remember about these labels is that to really understand what the standards they represent, you must do your research. Otherwise, it’s just a sticker.

Comparative Labels

Comparative labels provide a nuts-and-bolts comparison of appliances in terms of their efficiency. These are mandatory in most countries across the globe. Instead of simply providing a seal of approval, these labels provide either a category or scale from which to compare one item to another.

In the EU, figure A, appliances are rated on a scale of A+++ to D. China, figure 2, works on a similar system. This design is actually used in several nations around the world. Australia, Japan, Thailand, and South Korea rate appliances on a dial with stars, which is a visually pleasing, and gets the point across in a quickly-ascertainable manner. The US and Canada, figures E and F, use a scale system which clearly displays the energy usage and estimated yearly operating costs. They’re not as visually pleasing but they do offer information that is useful to the consumer in practical terms.

When you’re remodeling, no matter where in the world you purchase your new appliances, be sure to look closely at the energy efficiency labels and understand what you’re reading. It’s the only surefire way to purchase the appliance that’s the best match for your remodeled home and for the planet.

Efficiency label images via frontiersin.org

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