Look for EnergyGuide labels when you're shopping for appliances. They will help you make the most energy efficient purchase - and save you money over the life of your appliance.
The distinctive yellow and black EnergyGuide labels appear on most of the energy-using products that are subject to minimum efficiency standards set by the federal government. Consumers will find them on refrigerator-freezers and freezers, dishwashers, clothes washers, microwaves, water heaters, pool heaters, room air conditioners, central air-conditioners and heat pumps, furnaces and boilers, and fluorescent lamp ballasts.
(Although televisions, clothes-dryers, ranges and ovens, and space heaters have to meet federal minimum efficiency standards, they were exempted from the EnergyGuide program. That's because the amount of energy the products use does not vary substantially from model to model.)
How To Read Them
EnergyGuide labels come in slightly different formats for different appliances, but they're all easy to understand. The information they contain will help you make the wisest purchase.
- On the left under the headline EnergyGuide, the label describes the type of appliance it is - in this case, a refrigerator-freezer. It offers a brief description and the size - of this particular appliance.
- On the right it lists the manufacturer, the model numbers that fit this description and the capacity.
- In the box, the estimated amount of energy this model refrigerator will use in a year is spelled out - in this case, 644 kilowatt-hours a year.
- Below that is a line scale showing the range of energy use in models of comparable size and type. Of those refrigerators being compared, the scale shows the least amount of energy used - in this case, 617 kilowatt-hours - and the most amount of energy used - 698 kilowatt-hours. A caret points out where this particular appliance falls along the range of energy costs.
- A paragraph indicates the range of model sizes being compared.
- Finally, the label tells you how much you can expect to spend each year in electricity costs, given the estimated kilowatt-hours this refrigerator uses, and the suggested cost of electricity. It also assumes this refrigerator will be operated under normal conditions. (Running it in a closed, unventilated garage in the middle of the Mojave Desert in the summer will obviously run up your electric bill.)
The EnergyGuide label is a valuable tool for comparison - but beware of some limitations!
Warnings About The Energyguide Label
Our sample label compares a range of different refrigerators - in this case, models with a capacity between 16.5 and 18.4 cubic feet. That's a large range. If all refrigerators were equally efficient, the smallest size in that range would be at the low end of the scale, and the 18.4 capacity models would be at the high end. If you're trying to find the most efficient 18.4-cubic-foot refrigerator, the bar scale may not accurately reflect a refrigerator's efficiency. In a sense, you're comparing small apples with big oranges.
To make an intelligent choice, you should compare the energy use in kilowatt-hours of all 18.4 cubic feet refrigerators. Some will be more efficient than others. Don't just rely on where a model fits on the comparison scale - make sure you're comparing appliances of the same size.
Another word of caution - the ranges shown on the labels are not updated frequently, and manufacturers are constantly introducing more efficient appliances. As a result, it could be possible to find a model that is more efficient than the most efficient end of the range. In that case, the label may note that the efficiency of this particular model was not available at the time the range was published.
Information on EnergyGuide labels varies from appliance to appliance. The estimated cost maybe based on the average price of natural gas instead of electricity, for example. For room air conditioners, central air conditioners, heat pumps, furnaces and boilers, the range is not energy consumption, but rather, the energy efficiency ratings for these products (EER, SEER, HSPF & SEER, and AFUE , respectively).