New Washing Machine Energy Ratings: Tumbling the Facts

Energy Ratings Explained Image

It’s not easy being green and clean. The system covering washing machine energy ratings has not helped. Consequently, the world of washing has been responsible for pumping heaps of pollutants into the ecosphere, via high levels of energy usage resulting in clown-sized carbon footprints. 

For an activity bent on being clean, the environmental impact is somewhat ironic. 

Washing machines in particular are guilty parties, using water like there’s no tomorrow (9% of household use) and generally being pretty energy-greedy, so a revamp for washing machine energy ratings is timely.

Thankfully, it’s recently become a little easier to negotiate the tricky route to e-cleanliness without getting into a lather.

The EU, via its European Green Deal, has set out its plan for the entire territory to become carbon neutral by 2050, a goal which the UK shares. As part of this drive, a new system of electrical appliance energy ratings has been implemented which seeks to simplify matters. 

Given that, in the UK’s case at least, 40% of greenhouse gas emissions are from the household, and that half of those result from kitchen activities, it’s high time we turned our attention to the kitchen, so the Green Deal is extremely welcome. 

Hopefully, the new system will ease the process of identifying a unit that inflicts fewer stains on the environment while rendering your smalls impressively immaculate.

Why were energy ratings brought in?

Following a huge bulge in environmental awareness in the late 1980s, the EU responded by bringing in a requirement for energy labelling in the early ‘90s. 

It was felt that consumers needed a clear way of telling the difference between those units that would help in the fight for a future and those that most certainly would not. This would then encourage producers to get with the program and freshen up their approach.  

A bit of a mess

The old system for washing machine energy ratings was great, for a while. It revolutionised conscientious consumerism by placing a simple tool in the hands of those trying to be on the right side of the newly emerging environmental debate.

Appliances were labelled ‘A’ to ‘F’, according to their energy usage rating. If you got your hands on a toaster with an ‘A’ rating, you were pretty sure that you were doing your bit so ensure that it was just your breakfast that was toast, and not the planet.

It certainly gained traction with the world at large. By 2019, it was reported that the energy rating label was recognised by 93% of consumers.

However, over the passage of time, more and more appliances started to move up the scale. 

This is a great thing, obviously, but as the top end of the spectrum became clogged up with impeccably green products, the European Commission  began bolting plus signs on to differentiate the very best items from slightly less environmentally impressive wares.

Consequently, it became common for ‘A+++’ to be seen on the stickers on the front of products. Again, amazing progress, but not great for clarity.

Another issue was that some manufacturers were arriving at an energy rating using wash programmes that were not really what customers really used. Another concern was that the old ratings ignored a good deal of other relevant environmental factors.

Consumers began to feel a little hung out to dry.

READ MORE: Looking to extend the life of your washing machine? Read our full guide on how to clean your washing machine the eco friendly way.

Cleaning things up

A new washing machine energy rating scale has now been brought in that makes it easier to differentiate the squeaky clean washing machine candidates from those with a murkier profile. It goes, very simply, downwards in efficiency from ‘A’ to ‘G’. 

The idea is that, to begin with, ‘A’ will be all but unattainable from today’s ranges. The best in the business will be at a ‘B’, with ‘C’ and ‘D’ still denoting a fairly eco-friendly operation while ‘E’ to ‘G’ will need to pull their climatically calamitous fingers out.

The thinking is that manufacturers of household appliances such as washing machines will strive ever more fervently for better eco-performance in order to make it all the way to the sunlit plains of that elusive ‘A’ rating.

It will, of course, mean an element of confusion with consumers used to the old washing machine energy rating scale. Will they think that, bizarrely, appliances have become less eco-friendly than they were before? Hopefully, with the use of clear particulars rather than masses of informational froth, the situation will soak in.

The EU Commisioner for Energy put matters like this:

“The original energy label has been very successful, saving an average household in Europe several hundred euros per year and motivating companies to invest into research and development. 

“Until the end of February, over 90% of products were labelled either A+, A++ or A+++. 

“The new system will be clearer for consumers and ensure that businesses continue to innovate and offer even more efficient products. 

“This also helps us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.’

The new label will have some differences in design so it can be recognised. See below.

The new washing machines energy rating label

There will also be a new programme brought in called ‘Eco 40-60’, which every machine must have as its default setting. It will also be the programme used for testing, so that should drain some confusion out of the system.

How are the ratings calculated?

The energy usage ratings, predictably enough, give an idea of how many kilowatt-hours (kWh) that appliance will use, from ‘A’ (the leanest meanest energy eke-out machine) to ‘G’ (the most unapologetically energy-guzzling product available; ideal for those who would like to see a swift end to life on earth, at the same time as getting their whites really white).

Incidentally, a washing machine energy rating label will now give you lots more information, such as estimated annual water consumption, noise levels, and spin cycle efficiency, so there’s a full load for the avid eco-enthusiast to entertain themselves with in their local appliance retailer. 

And for those who want to plumb even greater depths of detail, there will be QR codes just waiting to be scanned too.

Got a less efficient machine? What should you do?

So, your machine is not the best, environmentally, and its energy rating is more ‘G’ than ‘A’. Should you give it the push and get a more planet-loving one? Well, yes and no. If it has plenty of washing life left in it, it would be an eco-goof in itself to dump it prematurely.

Think of the energy that went into its design, creation, testing, and transportation. What would be great is if there were a way to take that machine and green it up. Can this be done? Oh yes.

Cool it

Reduce the temperature. 90% of a washing machine’s energy use is necessitated by heating the water. But you really don’t need to do it at 40°. Those in the know are chilling at 30° or even 20°.

Lower temperatures like these can result in massive CO2 cuts. An increasing number of detergents are being designed for use with lower temperatures, so get yourself some of the good stuff and turn that dial down.  

Load up

Half loads are a waste. Wait until you have enough for a full load then get busy. If you simply must have that single sock washed to meet its partner waiting for it on the other side, then give it a quick handwash. Easy. And some machines have a half load option, so check that out.

Clean machine

Debris can build up in a machine, and this can ruin its efficiency or even limit its life, so on every worried washer’s wishlist is the following:

  1. Please empty your pockets

A lot of us washing machines have met with a sticky end because of some trousered trinket that came out in the wash.

  1. Please clean my filter

I know it’s not pleasant and I really wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t absolutely necessary but I can’t do it myself, you see.

  1. Descale me

Washing machines live longer with a trade named product I can’t mention but you know what I’m on about.

  1. Off duty is off duty

If I’m not busy doing my thing then switch me off.

  1. Hot stuff

Finally, a hot empty wash every now and then will clean my drum and give lurking germs the heave-ho.

With sensible measures, the biggest energy-slurpers can be made a little more acceptable. Some may dismiss this as wishy-washy, however, it is important to balance the zeal for a green revolution via new, cleaner, products with a concern for the surplus energy required by premature product replacement.

If, on the other hand, your machine’s totally rinsed and it’s time to say goodbye then do remember recycling options available to you. And do consider buying your next machine second-hand if you can find an efficient model.

Final summary

The new labelling system for washing machine energy ratings is not just a whitewash. It will make a huge difference to consumer clarity and the future of the planet. 

In fact, the EU reckons that it will result in annual reductions of 800,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and 711 million meters³ of water consumption which has got to be worth a spin.  If you’re looking for a new washing machine, find out which is the most eco-friendly washing machine available to buy today, here.