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A guide to energy-saving appliances

By Kat Sommers

There's a lot to think about when buying a new appliance for your home. How big should it be? How much? And how green? This guide should help with that last one.

People looking at washing machines and wondering which to buy

Understanding energy labels

First off, you need to know about energy labels. No, really. Stay with us.

An illustration of a pair of glasses and a pen on an energy label

You've probably spotted them before. They’re those colourful traffic-light labels on the sides of light bulbs, fridges and TVs.

Every household appliance for sale in the EU must display one, and indicate how energy efficient it is. Appliances sold before March 2021 showed a scale between A+++ (very efficient, in green) at the top, all the way down to G (which is red, and, you’ve guessed it, bad).

As appliances became more efficient, it was getting confusing to keep adding pluses onto the scale, so from March 2021, the energy label has been simplified again to go from A (good) to G (less good). Read more about which appliances have switched to the new label. 

Appliances that are rated as highly energy-efficient on this scale also tend to be more expensive. But that shouldn’t put you off them. In the long run, they’ll use less energy, which means they’re cheaper to run.

Here’s what to look out for for each of the appliances in your home.

Lower your laundry costs

At a glance:

  • Buy a washing machine with an A rating for extra savings

  • Tumble dryers still use the old energy label system (A++++ to G)

  • Dryers with a low energy rating will cost you more in the long run

It’s well worth getting a washing machine with the highest energy rating you can find. Choosing an A rated one over a G model could save around £60 over its 11 year lifetime. 

There are still tumble dryers with only a B rating for sale, but paying a bit extra goes a lot further when it comes to this appliance. That’s because tumble dryers are one of the most energy-inefficient gadgets in your home, and expensive to run as a result. 

So it’s worth spending that extra money upfront, if you can. Going for a tumble dryer rated A+++ for energy efficiency over an A-rated one could save you around £280 over its average 13-year lifetime.

Zap the energy your TV uses

At a glance:

  • Smaller screens use less energy

  • If you have to go big, maximise on energy efficiency to save money

Bulb illustration of a TV measuring its waist

Depending on how much you use it, your TV can be one of the most energy-draining appliances in your house. That said, a new telly uses about 70% less energy in standby mode than one bought before 2007.

In general, the bigger the screen, the more energy your TV will use, so those extra inches will have an impact on your bank balance well beyond the day of purchase. 

In fact, choosing a 32” LCD instead of a 42” one could save you over £80 a year in running costs over the TV’s lifetime. That’s a whopping £800 if it lasts 10 years.

Buying energy-saving light bulbs

At a glance:

  • LEDs are the most energy efficient bulb on the market

  • Compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs are next best and more affordable

  • Halogen bulbs use 5 times as much energy as LEDs

  • Old-fashioned bulbs with a filament are the least energy efficient

When buying bulbs, look for ‘LED’. Like J.R.R. Tolkien, light-emitting diodes are better known by their initials. Not only do they last much longer than traditional bulbs - sometimes as long as 25 years - but they also get top marks on the energy-efficiency scale.

In fact, if you replaced all the bulbs in a typical home with LEDs, you’d save around £30 a year on your energy bill and reduce your carbon footprint by 40kg. And swapping just one 50W halogen bulb with an LED can save you around £75 over the bulb’s lifetime.

The trouble is, LEDs can be pricey. So compact fluorescent, or CFL, bulbs are a more affordable energy-efficient alternative. They’re those big twisty ones that stick out from under lampshades. Clunky bulbs are the price we pay for a happy planet (not to mention being a great band name).

Halogen bulbs are much less efficient than their LED or halogen cousins. Which is why they’re currently being phased out. And then there are the old-fashioned bulbs. You can no longer buy them, but if you find some in your loft, then the lower the wattage, the less energy they’ll use.

Save energy with a water-saving shower head

At a glance:

  • Use less water by having showers not baths

  • The quicker the shower, the more energy you’ll save

  • Buy an energy-saving shower head

When it comes to washing yourself, remember this rule of thumb: the less water you use, the less energy you need to heat it.

Illustration of someone running into their shower and scaring a cat away

So showers are better than baths, and a quick shower is best. Which means no more spending 10 minutes perfecting that high note in “I Wanna Dance with Somebody”.

And while we're on the subject of showers, look out for water-saving shower heads. They don't use energy, so they don't have an energy label. 

They pulsate, aerate, or just reduce the amount of water being let through, so look for how many litres they claim to reduce your water consumption by. A typical household could save around £17 off their yearly gas bills (and £30 off their water bill) by replacing their inefficient shower head with a water efficient one.

Make your computer more energy-efficient

At a glance:

  • Buy a laptop not a desktop computer

  • Turn it off at the plug

Laptops may be space savers, but they’re good at saving energy as well. Their compact size and smaller screens mean they use a lot less energy than a desktop computer. So much so, that over the course of a year using one avoids 30kg of CO2 being added to the atmosphere. It could also save you up to £19 a year.

Another way to save energy is to turn your computer off fully. Leaving it on standby costs a typical home around £7 and creates about 13kg of CO2 a year.

How to buy a low-energy fridge freezer

At a glance:

  • Fridge freezers are now rated from A to G

  • It’s worth paying the extra for an energy-efficient model

  • Save even more by keeping them in tip-top condition

Modern fridges and freezers are much more energy-efficient than they used to be. But the difference between choosing a D rated fridge freezer over a G model is bigger than you might think. It amounts to a saving of around £850 over the appliance’s lifetime, assuming it lasts for the average lifespan of 17 years. You’ll save more than 1 and a half tonnes of CO2 in that time too. Worth paying that little bit extra upfront.

You can save even more energy with a few energy-saving quick wins too: like keeping the fridge full, and dusting behind its coils once in a while.

Save time and energy with a dishwasher

The lowest-rated dishwasher available to buy in the shops now is G. But choosing a D-rated dishwasher over a G rated one could save you around £100 over its average 11-year lifetime. 

Buy a slow cooker for energy-efficient meals

Slow cookers are a great energy-efficient alternative to your oven, especially for warming stews and curries. 

They use just a little more energy than a traditional light bulb, and you can leave your food to cook slowly throughout the day while you’re at work or when you need to get on with other things.

Smart plugs and appliances help save energy

At a glance:

  • Smart appliances let you control how much energy they use remotely

  • Save money by seeing how much energy they use in real-time and taking action to reduce your usage

Bul illustration of a man switching on his heating remotely, wearing holiday clothes and with a suitcase in snow

So-called 'smart' appliances don't usually save energy by default. But they do put you in control by showing how much energy they're using in real-time, and letting you switch them on or off wherever you are. 

There are lots of smart gadgets available to buy. Think smart plugs, smart bulbs, smart TVs, smart washing machines, and smart thermostats. 

Smart thermostats can help to keep your heating in check, by letting you warm specific rooms and learning your routine so you never heat an empty home. Models like Nest, Hive and tado° give you maximum flexibility when it comes to managing your heating using your smartphone, tablet or laptop. 

We’re so excited by all things smart, we’ve partnered with tado° to give Bulb members a 35% discount on all smart heating gadgets from tado.com.

Smart meters are another good way to keep an eye on your energy. They come with an In-Home Display to make your usage visible in real-time, so you can spot any energy-hungry appliances straight away. According to Smart Energy GB, 86% of homes with a smart meter were able to make changes to their behaviour that resulted in saving money.

Your energy company can organise a smart meter for you. And if you’re a Bulb member, you can get a smart meter installed for free.

Where we got our figures

The energy saving figures in this guide came from the Energy Saving Trust in June 2021. They're based on a typical home, so your savings will vary. Unless you live in a 3-bedroom, semi-detached house with gas heating, that is, on the average tariffs for gas and electricity.

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