Price is not the only consideration when we purchase electrical appliances. Energy use is also a factor. This is because an appliance with a poor energy rating will end up costing several hundred pounds more to run over its lifetime. So paying £50 or £100 more for an energy efficient appliance will be cheaper in the long run; and we can enjoy a feel-good sensation because of the environmental benefits.
All of these considerations, however, are predicated on the trust we have in the corporations that manufacture the appliances. What if – like Volkswagen – the manufacturers of electrical appliances fiddled the figures? What if we cannot rely on the energy labelling?
According to the European Marketwatch group, our trust in manufacturers’ energy ratings may indeed be misplaced. In a three-year study of a range of appliances sold throughout the European Union, the group found that twenty percent of the appliances tested used more energy than was claimed:
“Independent laboratory tests found a vacuum cleaner using 54% more energy than claimed, a refrigerator 12% over and a TV measuring an energy class lower and with a required power down feature deactivated.
“Homeowners may find some results surprising and others frustratingly familiar. A dishwasher was found needing two runs to clean dishes properly; an LED 20 percent less bright than advertised; and a tumble dryer blocked from powering down by a single light remaining on in its dashboard.”
The difference between manufacturers’ claims and the actual energy consumed is costing EU consumers more than £8 billion per year and adding an additional 47 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year to the environment.
Marketwatch calls for better enforcement of EU regulations. But the uncomfortable truth is that any system based on corporate self-testing is bound to result in cheating. If we want accurate labelling, then we need to stump up the cash both to pay for independent testing and to come down hard on corporations caught cheating.