The EU energy label is a widely recognised feature on household products, like lightbulbs, televisions or washing machines, and has helped consumers make informed choices for more than 25 years.
The energy label provides a clear and simple indication of the energy efficiency of a product at the point of purchase. It helps consumers to compare products, save energy and thereby save money on their future household energy bills. By opting for the more energy efficient products, they will also contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions across the EU.
In an EU-wide survey in 2019, 93% of consumers confirmed that they recognised the label and 79% confirmed that it influenced their decision on what product to buy. The label has also been a major driver for manufacturers to improve their products’ energy performance in order to get a rating in the top categories. Over time, top products have improved their energy efficiency, gradually rising their class to A+, then A++ and in many cases A+++. Even the poorest performing products on the market are considerably more efficient now than when the system was introduced.
In order to be more understandable to consumers and to pave the way for more innovative and energy efficient products, the current energy label with energy classes from A+++ to D will gradually be replaced in the coming years with a new, simpler scale from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient).
In a drive to put consumers first, the rescaling of EU energy labels is part of a broader push that also includes public access to a European product database and recent ecodesign rules regarding consumers’ right to repair products (including the availability of spare parts). These will be the subject of further wide-ranging initiatives, as part of the European Green Deal and the circular economy agenda.
The rescaling starts on 1 March 2021
Together with ecodesign requirements, the EU energy label has, been a key achievement for the EU that has partly been victim of its own success. As the energy efficiency of products has continued to improve, more and more products have occupied the top classes, leaving classes below D virtually empty. With the difference between A++ and A+++ being less obvious to consumers, surveys showed that a plain A to G scale was more likely to guide consumers towards choosing efficient products, so it was time to introduce a simpler scaling system for EU energy labels.
From 1 March 2021, the new A to G scale will start to apply for:
- washing machines
In addition to these 4 product groups the energy labels for light sources, such as light bulbs, will be rescaled as of 1 September 2021 and other product groups will follow. Each new energy label is designed so that the A class initially is empty in order to leave room for innovation and development of new, more energy efficient models.
If you bought one of these products since November 2020, it is possible that you found 2 different energy labels in the packaging of a your new product. The product might have been classified as an A+++ in the old system, and perhaps a class B or a class E under the new scale. While this may be confusing – and even disappointing – it is important to understand that it is simply due to the rescaling exercise and does not change the quality or performance of your product.
In some cases, the new scale applies different – stricter, or more realistic - calculation methods, due to the revised requirements. For example, under the old scale the energy consumption for washing machines is based on annual use, whereas the calculation for the new rescaled label is based on 100 washing cycles. For televisions, the energy consumption formula has changed, to better take into consideration the consumption of internal components, and not only of the screen.
When comparing products and models, it is therefore very important to make sure that the comparison is based on the same kind of label, otherwise a comparison is not meaningful. Likewise, if the label rating of a given product appears to be much worse than the old one, this does not mean that the old rating was wrong, but rather that the scale has become much more demanding or that the test criteria may have changed.
After 1 March 2021, retailers will have 14 working days to replace the old energy label on all rescaled products in stores and online shops, as well as in marketing materials.
Public access to the European product database
To ensure a smooth transition from the old labels to the new ones, the European Commission has developed information tools to help consumers, manufactures and retailers along the way. The European Product Registry for Energy Labelling (EPREL) is an online database of key importance in this aspect, as it will allow consumers to directly access information for specific products simply by scanning the QR code featured on the new energy labels.
The database was set up in 2019, to help support and guide market surveillance authorities. Parallel to the launch of the new rescaled energy labels, the idea is that from March 2021, consumers will be able to access the product database for all the models in the 4 rescaled product groups (fridges, washing machines, dishwashers, televisions).
The database will offer consumers the possibility to read and compare product information sheets that detail specific information about the product models, in addition to its energy efficiency performance and other information available on the energy label. For a fridge for example, such information could cover the model dimensions, details on the containing lightbulb, the type of compartments and their individual volume, or the minimum guarantee offered by the supplier.
From 1 May 2021 it will also be possible for consumers to search specific information on tyres, and from 1 September 2021 information on light sources.
Right to repair!
Some products have requirements on both energy label and ecodesign, whilst other product groups are covered only by ecodesign. In broad terms, ecodesign measures encourage more sustainable and circular products, setting mandatory minimum standards for their energy efficiency.
In this context, 10 additional ecodesign measures were adopted by the Commission in October 2019, having previously been agreed in consultation with the industry and with the support of EU countries. An important change in these rules concerns the consumer’s right to repair products.
Prolonging a product’s life through repair can bring significant environmental benefits, especially for products where the biggest environmental impact occurs during the construction phase. The product groups concerned are listed below:
- Washing machines
- Electronic displays (including televisions)
- Refrigerators with a direct sales function (e.g. fridges in supermarkets, vending machines for cold drinks)
For each of these product groups, spare parts and relevant repair information must be available to professional repairers and end-users for a minimum period of 7 to 10 years after the product is no longer placed the market. Furthermore, any spare parts must be delivered at the latest after 15 working days.
The right to repair is not only key for EU circular economy objectives, it is also a great boon to consumer rights. Already at the design stage, the spare parts should be developed so that a repairer can use common tools to replace the parts, and the procedure for ordering them should be publicly available, and free of charge, on the website of a given manufacturer, importer or authorised representative. In practice, it means that consumers will know which spare parts they can order and how they can order them. It will also help them to access the appropriate repair information.
All in all, these changes to EU rules are aimed at ensuring that manufacturers continue to innovate and strive for more energy efficient, durable and sustainable products – in a way that most benefits consumers and is easily understood. The more we move towards more energy-efficient products, the more we can reduce our household energy bills – and contribute to the fight against climate change.
Web: Energy label and ecodesign (EN, FR, DE)
Animated video: “What is energy efficiency” (22 languages)
Article: A new generation of EU energy labels (EN, FR, DE, PL, ES, IT)
16 Februarie 2021