Energy efficient appliances: can they save you money?


We don’t all have the money to switch to a sustainable fuel source, such as biomass or solar. And while we can all switch providers quickly and easily to get a better deal, investing in energy efficient appliances is another big step we can take. Below we will look closely at what exactly makes energy efficient appliances the best option, how much they can save you over time and how to tell if an appliance is really as efficient as it claims.
Last updated: November 2022

Here in the UK, we are paying 40% more for our energy now than we were in 2015, without a similar increase in earnings. Around 5% of the total household expenditure in the UK goes on energy supply.

That means that about one in every £20 pounds that you earn goes on heating your home and hot water, powering appliances and charging devices. Behind rent or mortgage repayments, and food costs, it’s the biggest outlay for most homes.

That all adds up to around £1250 per household each year for both gas and electricity, which is not an insignificant amount by anyone’s standards. And with energy prices heading upwards year on year, we are all looking at ways we can keep our bills down. Which is where energy efficient appliances come in.

What does it mean when an appliance is energy efficient?

Energy efficiency is a term used a lot these days. Whether it’s your car or your energy provider, it is always a selling point. But what does it mean when we use it to talk about appliances?

At its most basic, being energy efficient means something either lasts longer or works better than a traditional appliance, while using the same amount or less energy over time. Ultimately, energy efficiency means doing more with less, squeezing more power out of as little energy as possible and making sure none is wasted.

A good example of this is lightbulbs. The old style filament bulbs produced plenty of light, but they also wasted a significant portion of their energy creating heat. New, energy saving lightbulbs make the same amount of light but create much less heat, making them much more efficient.

What is the most energy efficient appliance?

The energy efficiency principle applies to all other electrical appliances in our homes, as well as lightbulbs. A fridge that uses less energy to keep our food chilled and a washing machine that requires less power to clean our clothes are considered energy efficient.

In terms of the most energy efficient appliances, there is no, one specific most efficient appliance for your home. Efficiency is about trying to apply these principles across the board. Switching out your old kettle for a new energy efficient model makes sense and will have an impact, but true efficiency is about applying a new thought process across the board.

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Ideally you need to try and implement efficiency principles across your home, from investing in new appliances, insulation and simply by using less, where possible. It’s not just a question of changing old appliances for new. In fact, if an appliance isn’t broken then it’s less efficient to replace it than to wait until you really do have to buy a new one. When the time comes, use the energy efficient rating system to choose your new appliance (more on which below).

Do energy efficient appliances really save money?

Although energy efficient appliances are generally more expensive to buy they will cost less to run, so in the long term they will save you money. For example, an A+++ washing machine (more information on the rating system below) will be more expensive than an A+ but over the cost of its life average 11 year will save you about £65.

However, if you switch out your old 20 year old washing machine for a new efficient model, you could save upwards of £100 on bills. If you replicate these changes across the board, with ovens, kettles, fridges and more, the savings will add up each year to a more significant amount.

How do you tell if your appliance is energy efficient?

In the UK and Europe, the energy efficiency of any appliance is given a rating. This is to help you make informed decisions when you are shopping for a new machine. The rating scale runs from G at the bottom end of efficiency to A+++ at the top. This information will appear in the label alongside other information such as the estimated annual consumption and any water usage statistics, if relevant.

By understanding this labelling system you can find the most energy efficient appliances for your home. Helping you to reduce your impact and save money over time.

What should I look for when choosing appliances?

When looking for a new appliance, there are several things you can do to make sure you get the most efficient model. The list below tells you what to look out for.

  1. The highest energy rating you can get, aiming for at least an A+
  2. Check for energy saving settings including those that adjust water temperature or include automatic sensors to ensure no energy is wasted
  3. Purchase costs vs running costs: how much more will the energy efficient option save you over time compared to the extra investment
  4. Look for smart appliances which connect to WiFi in order to be as efficient as possible

How do energy labels work?

You are probably familiar with the European energy efficiency labelling system. These are required by law to be attached to certain types of products, including:

  1. Washing machines
  2. Tumble dryers
  3. Fridges and freezers
  4. Dishwashers
  5. Electric ovens
  6. Energy saving lightbulbs

Each product is awarded a rating between G and A+++ according to its energy consumption in kWh. The less kWh that the appliance uses then more efficient it is and the higher it is rated. However, this is not the only information that you may find on the label. It may also include the Energy Saving Trust Recommended voluntary label.

This is a product that has been endorsed by the Trust, which is a non-profit organisation funded by the UK government and private sector. The criteria that products need to meet in order to win a recommendation is reviewed annually by a panel of experts.

You may also see the Energy Star logo, which is a US government-backed initiative to help you identify more efficient products.

Tips on how to shop for energy efficient appliances

If you are in the market for a new energy efficient product then don’t be daunted by all the information out there. It is actually quite straightforward to get an appliance that saves you money and reduces your impact. Here are some top tips on how to do it.

  • Choose the right size appliance for you: you don’t always need to go for the most powerful option
  • Look for energy saving settings: in-built energy saving setting are usually a good sign
  • Understand there are two price tags: as well as the purchase cost you need to think about the running costs over a lifetime
  • Look at the energy guide on the label
  • Design matters: fridge freezers with the freezer section on top are usually more efficient than side by side models
  • Power sources: some fuels are much cheaper to run appliances than others
  • Go smart: some smart appliances can really help you keep running costs down and reduce wastage
  • Prioritise: some energy saving appliances have a much bigger impact than others

Energy efficient appliances for each room

Energy efficiency doesn’t just start and finish in the kitchen. As well as washing machines, dishwashers and fridges, you should be thinking about your energy impact around the house.

In the living room, the TV is a big power user and remember that ‘Vampire Energy’ can be a big factor. This is energy used when appliances are on standby so look for a model that is easy to turn off and on again.

In the bedroom, do you really need the aircon blasting all night? A ceiling fan might be a much better option and can reduce temperature by between one to three degrees. In the bathroom, the water heater uses a huge amount of energy, but turning it down or choosing a more efficient boiler could help you save.

Energy efficient toaster

How to get the most of your kitchen appliances

Once you have followed all of the above information about how to get the right appliances for you in terms of energy efficiency, then in order to get the most out of them you need to know how to use them correctly.

For example, boiling water in a kettle and then transferring to a pan for cooking is a great way to reduce energy consumption. And only ever use as much water as you need. Make sure you cover pots with lids when cooking as this increases temperature and reduces cooking time. You can also prepare food to eat in batches, which saves energy.

Never put hot or warm food in your fridge as it uses a lot of energy to cool it down. Never leave the fridge door open longer than is absolutely necessary and make sure it is operating at the optimum temperature between 1 and 5 degrees. The fridge works best when it is ¾ full. Overfill it and it will start to become less effective as cold air cannot circulate.

Follow common sense guidlines like these and you can help your appliances to be as efficient as possible.

As well as appliances you use in the kitchen, there are some other changes you can make to the way you heat, light and cool your home that can make a big difference. Below we look at three of the most common.

Energy saving lightbulbs

Energy saving lightbulbs are one of the simplest and cost-effective change outs you can make in any home. Because the average lifespan of an old filament bulb is short, it means we have far more opportunity to change to an energy efficient model than we would with a fridge or oven.

Energy efficient lightbulbs produce just as much light as the old filament bulbs, only they waste a lot less energy creating heat. The two most common types of efficient lightbulbs are LED and CFL. They are available for all types of domestic lamps and lighting, with various tones and shades available and with instant switch on.

Smart thermostat

A smart thermostat gives you much greater control over how you heat your home. Suitable for use with most boilers and central heating systems, you can fit individual radiators with thermostats and control different zones of your home at the same time. Connected to WiFI, you can monitor your home’s heating from anywhere you have a connection and it also gives you much clearer information about how much energy you are using and how much this is costing.

There are numerous types of smart thermostats on the market, with leading brands including Ecobee and Honeywell.

Energy efficient heating

In the UK, around 86% of homes have a mains gas connection. That’s about 23 million properties in the country heating their homes using a gas boiler. Gas is a cost-effective way to do it, at around 3.8p per kWh, compared with more than 12p for electricity. However, gas is a fossil fuel and supplies are running out, which is why more people are switching to fuels like biomass.

However, if this is not an option then think about how to upgrade your existing heating system, with things like underfloor options. Installing a smart thermostat is also a good idea as it gives you greater control over how and what you heat.

If you have old electric heaters, then you should seriously think about an upgrade as these can be very inefficient.

What should I do with my old appliances?

Due to the nature of the materials used, you should always dispose of electrical items carefully and in the proper way. Any item that has a picture of a wheelie bin with a cross through it should not be simply thrown away and needs to be disposed of correctly.

This generally includes all electrical items from large white goods to energy saving lightbulbs. If you dispose of them in the right way, this will allow the hazardous materials to be safely removed and any other parts recycled as necessary.

Disposing of waste electrical and electronic equipment

If you are buying new electrical appliances then the law obliges retailers to take your old ones away and deal with them in the correct way or tell you where you can do this. If they do not remove them from your home, then ask at your local recycling point about the best way to deal with any old appliances.

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Do energy efficient appliances save money?

Energy efficient machines are generally more expensive to buy. However, they will cost less to run so in the long term. For example, an A+++ washing machine will be more expensive than an A+ but remember that every appliance has two price tags - one you see and one you don’t. Over the cost of its life average 11 year will save you about £65, so you need to weigh up the finances before you buy. In general, the more efficient an appliance, the better value it is.

How do you tell if your appliance is energy efficient?

The energy efficiency of any appliance is given a rating in the UK, and in Europe, and this information must be displayed in the label. This is to help you make informed decisions when you are shopping for a new machine. The rating scale runs from G to A+++ at the top. Other information such as the estimated annual consumption and any water usage statistics will also be displayed on the label. Ask your retailer for more information if you are unsure.

What should I look for when choosing appliances?

Ideally you should be looking for the highest energy rating you can get, aiming for at least an A+. Check for energy saving settings including those that adjust water temperature and weigh up the purchase costs against running costs. Smart appliances which connect to WiFi help you to be as efficient as possible.

What should I do with my old appliances?

You should always dispose of electrical items carefully and in the proper way, as many contain some hazardous substances or materials. Any item that has a picture of a wheelie bin with a cross through it should not be thrown in the bin. Retailers are obliged to either remove your old item or inform you how best to deal with it. Or you can ask at your local recycling point about the best way to do this.

Updated on 29 Jan, 2024

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