Joanne Ly - 14 May, 2020

How to pick appliances to save energy

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When it comes to shopping for appliances, the price tag shouldn’t be the only thing you look at.

Your household appliances can sometimes account for 30% of your home energy use, so choosing the right energy efficient appliance is crucial to saving money on your bills. Looking at running costs and energy usage as a second price tag will help you choose products accordingly to save money and energy over time.

Nowadays, products will be fitted with star ratings to help identify which ones can reduce your energy consumption, and in turn help save you money and the environment. Star ratings is a nationally recognised rating system for quality appliance standards. They help measure energy efficiency, so the higher the rating, the less energy your appliance will consume.

The star rating

The star rating displays an energy rating for appliances on a six-star scale. It can come in whole or half star increments, determined by energy service per unit of energy consumption. On the star label, it displays a rating and an estimate of the appliance’s annual energy consumption (written in KWh/year). You may also notice that some appliances can be rated against a ten- star rating as opposed to a six-star rating. These are for measuring those appliances that are ‘super efficient’.

The energy system is mandatory in Australia for the following appliances:

  • Dishwashers
  • Washing machines
  • Washing dryers
  • Refrigerators
  • Freezers
  • Air conditioners
  • Televisions

The full list of products which are required to have an energy label rating can be viewed here.

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Ratings can change

Ratings change over time, as newer models come out and innovative ways of energy efficiency are discovered. A top-rated dishwasher from a few years ago might rate worse if it were measured at its current time. The star ratings are forced to adjust to make way for this change, so this should be kept in mind when shopping for second-hand appliances.

energy ratings can change

Star ratings and size of appliance

The star rating only compares appliances of the same type and size. It does not compare different models of appliances (such as washing machines and dishwashers) or a large fridge vs. a small fridge. This is because the stars calculate energy efficiency according to appliance size, not energy consumed in total. This will come in handy when shopping for new appliances – a smaller fridge with a low star rating might cost less than a large fridge with a high star rating. You will be able to figure out which appliance is more energy efficient by looking at the estimated energy consumption.

How can the star ratings help you save money?

The more electricity your appliance uses, the more it will cost you to power it.

As an example, take a one-star washing machine that uses 500kWH of energy per year and a six-star washing machine that uses 250kWh a year. Your energy bill can find the cost of a single kwH of energy, which we’ll assume is 50 cents. The total to run the six-star machine costs $125 a year whereas the total for the one-star washing machine is $250.

The longer the machine lasts, the more money you can save on your energy bills. Using the six-star washer for 10 years could save you $1250 when compared to using the one-star machine for the same amount of time.

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How to compare different models

Ideally it’ll be best to buy high rated appliances in every category, but not everyone has the budget in their household to upgrade all at once. You may also want to upgrade one appliance at a time.

To choose effectively, consider your household’s needs – do you need the biggest fridge as you’re a family with kids? Or maybe you might need air conditioning in every room? You should also check the standard yearly energy consumption on the star label so you can compare each appliance’s energy use. The Australian Government has provided an online calculator to help you compare between models.

How to calculate the costs involved

The energy rating website has a tip that can help you effectively calculate the cost of your energy usage:

“It’s easy – just take the energy consumption figure – and divide it by 4. For example, if the Energy Rating Label on a washing machine says it uses 400 kWh, it means it will roughly cost you $100 per year to run. Easy!

This is because across Australia energy rates range from under 20 c to just over 30 c per kWh – so using 25 c (1/4 of a dollar) is somewhere in the middle.”

However, how often a machine is used varies between households – and the electricity rates vary between providers and regions.

Gas appliances

All gas appliances do not have a red label energy rating as they are not regulated for energy efficiency in Australia. Those labels that appear on some appliances are completed as part of an industry-led voluntary Gas Energy Rating Label, and are not monitored by the government.

Appliances with no labels

For those appliances without any energy rating labels, you can estimate the usage or compare this with a product of a similar size.

It may also be worth considering where most of your energy goes.

A typical Australian household’s energy usage is generally:

Heating and Cooling (40%)

This is where most energy is spent, so it’s an area where the biggest savings can be made. Ensure your home is as thermally efficient as possible before considering heating and cooling appliances. Reverse cycle air conditioners are the most efficient for most homes but should still be used sparingly – every 1℃ adjustment means a 10% difference in energy consumption. Ceiling fans are also a great option as they can help reduce your dependency on reverse cycle air conditioning.

Water heating (23%)

There are many options to choose from when it comes to your hot water service – electric, gas, solar and many more. Typically, a person uses 50L of hot water a day  from using a dishwasher, hot showers and washing clothes. You can analyse your home usage by asking a few key questions; how many people live in the home? What’s the usual time for showers? Do you wish a dishwasher or mainly hand wash your dishes?

Other appliances (14%)

‘Other’ appliances include washing machines, home entertainment systems and gaming consoles. It’s worth thinking about the energy consumption when purchasing your next television, Xbox or soundbar.

Refrigerators and freezers (8%)

Bigger fridges are great if you have a large family, but it could use up more energy than good if you’re living alone. The bigger the appliance, the more energy they use because of the larger space. Deep freezers are great for those that bulk buy, but they’re also expensive to run – it may not be the best decision for small households.

Lighting (7%)

Older light bulbs use a considerable more amount of energy when compared to modern LED lights. Switching your bulbs can relieve you in large savings immediately. Switching from incandescent lighting to LED light bulbs gives you the same amount of light coming out, but reduces your energy consumption by hundreds of dollars per year (or more depending on the area size of the room).

Cooking (5%)

When looking for energy efficient cooking appliances, pay more attention to your oven or microwave as you’ll be using that more often than other appliances, and they run on more energy. Because your energy bill is counted on energy used up, boiling the kettle will use about the same amount of electricity, regardless of your model. Cooktops are also quite similar when it comes to power usage.

cooking energy use

Standby power (3%)

Standby power refers to your appliance being in standby mode before shutting down or keeping sensors active to respond to a remote. The average Australian household can use up to 81.8 watts of standby power per hour, for appliances which you think are not in use. When shopping for those appliances, consider checking to see if they have an auto switch off after being left on standby, or turn your power off at the wall for appliances that don’t get used often.

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One star products

A one star product means it isn’t as efficient as other models of the same size, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider it. Every household appliance sold in Australia will need to meet a minimum standard for energy efficiency first before being put into the market. There may be features in that particular product that other appliances just don’t have. Although the appliance may have one star, it doesn’t represent the performance. Rather, it will cost you more to run long term.

The energy labelling system

The energy labelling system helps to influence a customer’s buying decision and also encourage manufacturers to step up and improve the energy rating on their products. The Government has estimated that $4.60 of savings is achieved for every $1 into the program. Additionally, having the labelling system will help to decrease any carbon emissions, as consumers are moving towards more sustainable household products.


Words by Joanne Ly

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