Energy Rating Labels explained

An Energy Rating Label shows you at a glance how efficient an appliance is, but what else can it tell you?

Fridge with a star rating label

Most major appliances have an Energy Rating Label on them, but why should you care how many stars it has? These labels can help you spot the energy-hungry models that can end up costing you more in the long run. We explain everything you need to know and answer some common questions.

Why is this free?

This report is free thanks to funding from Te Tari Tiaki Pūngao/Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA).

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How Energy Rating Labels work

When you buy a large appliance, it’ll likely have an Energy Rating Label (one of those stickers with stars on it). This shows you, at a glance, how energy efficient that model is and how much it’ll cost to run. This makes comparing models and choosing an efficient one easier. All large whiteware, TVs, some monitors and heat pumps have these labels.

Energy Rating Labels have two important pieces of information: the star rating and the energy consumption.

Star rating

The top half of the label has a star rating of up to 6 or 10 stars. The stars represent how energy efficient a model is compared to other models of the same size/capacity. The minimum number of stars is 1, and the scale increases in increments of half a star up to 6 stars. More stars = more energy efficient.

Some models qualify for a “super efficiency” rating of up to 10 stars. Ratings of 7 stars or more are in 1-star increments.

On some models, up to 4 bonus stars may be displayed to account for super-efficiency, taking it to a maximum of 10. Once an appliance reaches 7 stars, they increase in increments of 1 star. More stars are better.

Energy consumption

The middle of the label shows the annual energy consumption in kilowatt-hours (kWh). You might not know what a kWh is, but it’s a measure of the energy used by an appliance. For example, a 55-inch TV uses 1kWh a day. Lower energy consumption figures are better.

You can use this figure to calculate how much that model would cost you based on the electricity price you pay (tariff). If you don’t have a power bill handy, the average cost of a kWh in New Zealand is 25¢ (so 4kWh = $1). For more information, see How much does a kWh cost?

You can compare the annual energy consumption across all models of an appliance type, as it is calculated on the average expected use of the appliance over a year.

Washing machines - cold water vs hot

For washing machines, there may be two energy consumption figures, one showing the annual kWh cost for warm washes and an optional one for cold washes. If you regularly use cold washes, this figure (which will be lower) will more accurately describe your energy use.

More info

The rest of the label contains information such as the brand and model name, what cycle/settings were used to get the annual energy consumption figure and the standard (if applicable) that the model was tested under. This may also include a second energy consumption figure for a different setting (for example, using a hot water connection on dishwashers).

Heat pump labels

Heat pump Energy Rating Labels are different. As the energy consumption of heat pumps varies, depending on whether they’re cooling or heating, they have two star-scores – one for cooling (blue) and one for heating (red).

Instead of energy consumption figures, the label shows how much heating power you get (capacity output) compared to the electrical power it uses (power input) in kW.

If you’re buying a heat pump, compare the ratio of capacity output to power input. For example, a heat pump that uses 1.8kW but only outputs 5kW is less energy efficient than a model that uses 1.6kW and outputs 5kW.

You can also compare heat pump inputs and outputs with EECA’s rightware tool.

New heat pump label coming

Within the next year, heat pumps will have the new Zoned Energy Rating Label (ZERL), which will be more accurate and display information such as annual energy consumption in kWh, and indoor and outdoor noise levels.

These new labels will be mandatory on all new heat pumps and portable air conditioners. The manufacturers supply them and retailers must display them. They will have up to 10 stars for both heating and cooling.

The new labels will also take into account ambient temperature here and in Australia (the labels are a joint initiative). Fortunately, all of New Zealand falls into one zone – COLD.

You can’t compare this energy rating label to the current labels.

When comparing Energy Rating Labels


  • Compare the star rating of appliances of same type, size and capacity.
  • Calculate the annual running cost based on your power costs.
  • Choose a model with more stars and lower annual energy consumption.


  • Compare different appliances (for example, a fridge and a washing machine).
  • Compare an old appliance with a newer one – the test standard may have changed.
  • Assume high stars mean it will be cheap to run. It just means it costs less than similar models.

How much does a kWh cost?

Annual energy consumption figures on most labels are in kilowatt-hours (kWh), but what does this actually mean? A kWh is a measure of the energy used by an appliance. For example, a 100W incandescent lightbulb running for 10 hours will use 1kWh of energy. You’ll also see kWh on your power bill with an associated cost (this is called a tariff). You can use the energy consumption figure on an appliance and the kWh tariff from your power bill to calculate how much a model will cost to run. Running cost = kWh energy consumption x kWh cost

The average cost of a kWh in New Zealand is about 25¢, but the price you’ll pay will depend on several factors and could be higher or lower than this (typically between 16¢ and 41¢). 1kWh = about 25¢

Energy consumption represents “normal” use of the appliance over the course of a year. For fridges this is how much energy is used per day, as the fridge is always on, multiplied by 365. For other appliances, such as washing machines, energy consumption may be based on a single load a day for a year. If you use the appliance less than this, you’ll use less energy and it’ll cost less to run.

Choosing a more energy-efficient appliance will reduce running costs, which can translate into real-world savings.

What could you save in a year?

Choosing a more energy-efficient washing machine could save enough money for you to buy 22 bottles of detergent a year. The right fridge could pay for 13 bottles of milk a year. A more energy-efficient TV could save you enough to pay for 5 months’ worth of Netflix subscription.

Remember to always compare like for like. Energy stars are only comparable for models that are the same type, size and capacity. You can’t compare the energy stars of a 45-inch TV with a 65-inch one.

Can’t see a label?

Energy Rating Label stickers are seen in stores, and some retailers also display them on their websites. We have energy stars and annual energy consumption figures in our product reviews.

If you don’t see an energy rating label on a display model in store, ask the retailer.
It’s mandatory to display them on the appliance. You will find these labels on:

You can also find the energy star rating and annual energy consumption of a model by checking EECA’s Rightware tool. It includes energy rating label information on appliances sold in New Zealand, allowing you to compare products to find a model that fits your requirements and costs less to run.

Energy Rating Labels history

Energy Rating Labels have been in use since 2002. They’re a trans-Tasman collaboration, as the same models are often sold in both countries.

In New Zealand the energy rating labels are administered by Te Tari Tiaki Pūngao/Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA). A manufacturer can register a product due to be sold in Australia or New Zealand in either country.


Why can’t I compare a large french-door fridge with a small bottom-mount one?

You should only compare the star ratings of models that are the same type, size and capacity, as these differences will affect power use. However, you can compare the annual energy consumption across all models.

Should I buy a model with only a few stars?

If other comparable models you’re looking at also have only a few stars, then it could still be a comparatively energy-efficient model. The more stars the better.

Can an appliance have zero stars?

Not for the majority of appliances – the minimum number of stars most appliances can have is one star. The only exception is single duct portable air-conditioners which can have a zero star rating.

Is it the same as the energy star?

Energy Star label is no longer in use in New Zealand, but you may see it on second-hand appliances. It was licensed by EECA, from the United States' Environmental Protection Agency, until 2017 when its use was discontinued.

Could buying an appliance with a low star rating save money?

You might save money initially buying a $500 dishwasher with a 1-star rating, but it could end up costing you more in the long run than a $1000 model with 3 stars.

Do Water Rating Labels work the same?

Yes – they’re very similar to energy rating labels. The more water stars, the more water-efficient. However, instead of energy usage being listed in the middle of the label, water rating labels state the number of litres used per minute or per wash.

Member comments

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B R & G L S.
15 Aug 2020
Typo in heat pump example

The article states "... a heat pump that uses 1.6kW but only outputs 5kW is less energy efficient than a model that uses 1.8kW and outputs 5kW." I suspect that one of the 5kW output values is incorrect - perhaps the first one should be 3kW rather than 5kW.

Consumer staff
19 Aug 2020
Re: Typo in heat pump example

Hi B & G,

Thanks for pointing that out, the figures were swapped and have now been corrected.

Kind regards,
Frank - Consumer NZ staff