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?
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. 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).
Consumer NZ is non-profit and primarily funded by members. To help us get a fairer deal for all New Zealand consumers you can become a Consumer member or make a donation. We’ll use your contribution to investigate consumer issues and work for positive change.Donate
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.
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.
The middle of the label shows the annual energy consumption in kilowatt-hours (kWh). A kWh is 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 MBIE-reported national average cost of a kWh in New Zealand is 25¢ (so 3.45kWh = $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.
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).
New Heat pump labels
Heat pumps imported from 1 July 2021 display the new Zoned Energy Rating Label (ZERL), which displays more information such as annual energy consumption in kWh, and indoor and outdoor noise levels, but most importantly lists energy efficiency in New Zealand separate from most of Australia.
See our ZERL and what you need to know article for more information on the ZERL sticker.
New Fridge and freezer energy labels
Fridge and freezer Energy Rating Labels have recently had a change to the way they are calculated, so they also have a new-look label. While similar to the old label, there a few key differences:
- Bigger stars – the stars at the top of the label are bigger and easier to read, great if you leave your reading glasses at home.
- Total volume included – the label now states the total fridge and/or freezer volume, making it easier than ever to compare models while in store.
- Updated energy consumption calculation – this now more accurately reflects real energy usage by incorporating factors such as how simulated opening and closing the door affects usage. The testing standard at the bottom of the label has also been updated to reflect this, the new standard is AS/NZS IEC 62552-3.
- The bar at the bottom is now black - it still points you to www.energyrating.gov.au so you can compare model energy efficiency. Or you can go to the Gen Less website and use their nifty comparison tool.
- This new label isn’t mandatory yet, but you will see it appearing on some models.
Importantly, the new label ratings shouldn’t be compared with the older label ratings as they are calculated differently and assessed under different test conditions. It wouldn’t be a fair comparison. So, when comparing fridge labels in store, make sure you’re comparing like with like.
Tip – the new labels have a black bar at the bottom while the old ones have a white box.
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 Energy Rating Labels are stated in kilowatt-hours (kWh), but what does this actually mean? A kWh is a measure of the energy used by an appliance. It means one kilowatt of power used in one hour and it can be used to say how much power is used over a period of time. For example, a 100W incandescent lightbulb running for 10 hours will use 1kWh of energy.
You can use the kWh energy consumption figure on an appliance and the tariff (cost per kWh) from your power bill to calculate how much a model will cost you to run. Running cost = label kWh energy consumption x kWh cost.
The the MBIE-reported national average cost of a kWh in New Zealand is 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 as every appliance is used differently. For fridges as it’s always on, this is how much energy is used per day 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 to buy six 2L bottles of detergent a year while an energy efficient fridge could pay for 21 bottles of milk a year. An energy-efficient TV could save you enough to pay for 7 months’ of Netflix.
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 star ratings 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:
fridges and fridge-freezers
- washing machines
- computer monitors (some models).
You can also find the energy star rating and annual energy consumption of a model by checking the Gen Less Efficient Appliance Calculator. 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.
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.
Who creates the labels?
Energy Rating Labels have been in use in New Zealand since 2002. They’re a trans-Tasman collaboration, as the same models are often sold in both countries.
In New Zealand, Energy Rating Labels are part of efficiency regulations administered by EECA. The regulations cover both minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) and mandatory energy performance labelling (MEPL).
Importers/manufacturers must register products for energy efficiency before they are sold which can be done in Australia or New Zealand.
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.