Are eco labels on Washing Machines misleading?

Value How much value do the eco labels have? If you only compare washing machines using these labels you may make a poor choice. When first introduced, the eco labels were an eye opener and showed up big differences in performance and energy usage between various makes of washing machine.

However, after being in operation for just a few years almost every washing machine now has a good wash rating, and even the worst washing machine I can think of can boast a top rating. As with all such incentives (or targets) an obsession with achieving them often ends up being detrimental to the original intentions. Long term consequences that can ultimately outweigh the original benefit-goals can be obscured or even ignored – as long as the targets are met. (e.g. Washing machines not delivering right temperature – to cheat eco label ratings?)

The current ECO labels on washing machines have lost much of their real value, and could do with a reappraisal. They did a good job but are now too simplistic and potentially misleading for the following reasons –

1: They don’t take into account other far more important running-cost considerations such as repairs and longevity. So they can give the impression that an A+++ rated washing machine is a good buy when it could be one of the least reliable and short-lived washing machines available – and therefore a very poor washing machine to buy.

2: They don’t take into account the impact of other environmental issues such as country of origin. The appliance may have had to be transported from several thousand miles away.

3: They don’t take into consideration the environmental impact of production methods such as how recyclable the washing machine is.

So they can easily mislead the public into buying a poor quality washing machine with an good energy rating which is not good for the environment. Many may only last a few years due to the way they are manufactured – which is to be cheap but commonly unrepairable

More examples of Eco labels being unhelpful

  • The wash efficiency test is carried out on only one wash programme (ironically) one of the highest and least energy efficient washes at 60 degrees – that few people use
  • All washing machines now achieve A ratings so they’ve become virtually meaningless. The addition of a new category A+ was created to differentiate between the best of the A rated washing machines, and when that wasn’t enough the further addition of A++ (for fridges) had to be introduced
  • Some washing machines appear to achieve the wash efficiency A rating by making the test wash program wash for considerably longer than it used to. People aren’t realising that many of the new washing machines are taking a ridiculous amount of time to wash in order to get these ratings. This can lead to people using many of the options that cut down the wash times, and to select lower temperatures in order to speed wash times up, with the potential consequences of sludge and grease building up inside the washing machine causing nasty smells and shortening the life of the washing machine. These longer wash times are also causing more wear and tear and shortening lifespans. (Related advice: Causes of grease, slime and black mould inside washing machine)
  • Example of “A” rated madness?

    Here’s an example of how crazy things can get when manufacturers try to achieve awards for ratings that may convince customers to buy, and how potentially misleading it can be. Crosslee announced the launch of, “the first A rated tumble dryer in Britain”. This sounds good, but the tumble dryer is really a C class tumble dryer unless you use the dryer’s special A rated programme –

    Select the ‘Low Energy’ button. Users are then able to make use of the A Class programme. This runs for approximately 8 hours, (my emphasis) and can be used any time of the day or night. By de-selecting the ‘Low Energy’ button, users are able to make use of the faster programme, which is C Energy Efficiency Rated. This runs for approximately 120 minutes and can be used when time is of the essence.”

    People buying this tumble dryer, specifically attracted by its, “A energy efficiency rating” may well be unaware they will have to leave the dryer running for 8 hours per load to use it as an A rated appliance. I can’t help wondering how much of the potential energy savings in running costs could be counteracted by extra breakdowns and by potentially having to replace a worn out dryer before you normally would.

    I’m making an assumption here that a machine that would normally run for between 50 minutes to a couple of hours per load, suddenly taking 8 hours, could potentially break down more often, and wear out quicker. To be fair to Crosslee, they haven’t tried to hide the 8 hour program time, but I imagine the A rating will be an attractive buying-hook to people not well enough informed. I expect most people would assume the dryer is just more efficient than all other dryers but most would probably not be happy to leave their dryer running for 8 hours per load.

    Another example of designing appliances to beat the eco labels?

    Which? have just tested washing machine temperatures and found that many don’t reach anywhere near 60 degrees on the 60 degree wash, which is the wash cycle used to rate the appliances energy usage. One only reached a staggering 43 degrees and several reach only 50 odd degrees. I have to say the only possible advantage I can see for heating to less than the advertised temperature is that the cycle would use a lot less energy and get better energy usage ratings – Washing machines not delivering right temperature

    These days you can save more money by simply switching energy suppliers as described here Reducing energy costs of washing machines & other appliances


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