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
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
- Part 1: What do the energy labels on washing machines mean? Energy Efficiency Ratings
- Part 2: Energy Labels: Energy consumption kWh/Cycle
- Part 3: Washing performance ratings on eco labels
- Part 4: Final Part – spin drying performance, water consumption & Noise levels
- Eco-labels suggestion (Not directly related to washing efficiency ratings but related to eco labels)