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Energy Labelling

Guide to energy labelling.

Energy rating

Credit: Jamie Tufrey

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Seeing Stars

The rating system used for domestic appliances is similar to that used for water.

Energy stars are issued by the federal and state government-run Energy Rating label scheme, which began in 1986. It wasn't in use nationwide until 2000.

It is now mandatory for manufacturers of refrigerators, freezers, clothes washers and dryers, dishwashers, some air-conditioners, gas heating and hot water systems, to display their rating.

Like the water equivalent, energy labels give a star rating from zero to six, and a consumption measurement.

Stars take into consideration the size of the object — a large freezer will use more energy than a small one, for example, but may be quite efficient for its parameters.

The website points out that while regulation demands white goods show a star rating, it doesn't mean the government has endorsed the product's "quality or durability".

Another, similarly named, government labelling scheme is Energy Star, which focuses on office and home entertainment equipment.

It differs from the other stars in that it is not just an assessment of efficiency but a software program that actively reduces the amount of power used by equipment by switching it to 'sleep' mode when it's unused for a set amount of time, and by reducing the power it uses in standby mode.

Equipment with the Energy Star label on it has this power-saving function 'enabled' already when you purchase it.

However, many products have the capacity to save energy in the same way (in other words, they are Energy Star compliant) even though they are not set to do so as part of the manufacturing process.

By following the downloadable instructions available from www.energystar.gov.au you can enable the feature yourself, even if your equipment doesn't carry an Energy Star label. You may want to enlist the help of a tech-savvy friend.

In addition to buying appliances that use energy efficiently, most of us want greener sources of electricity for our office and home. Right now, almost every energy supplier claims to offer green power, but they're not all legitimate — or equivalent — which is where the third-party assessor GreenPower comes in.

GreenPower

Established in 1997, GreenPower is an accreditation program supported and managed by the state and federal government that sets standards for renewable electricity products offered by energy suppliers.

When you buy some green electricity (you can choose from 10 to 100 % of your total consumption), your retailer will still source your supply from the grid, which is primarily electricity from coal, but will ensure the same amount of environmentally friendly, renewable energy is put into the grid somewhere.

There is another level of checks in place with green electricity: an assessment group monitoring the assessment group.

Green Electricity Watch is made up of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Total Environment Centre and WWF Australia.

The 2006 Green Electricity Watch report explains that consumers need to be aware that the percentage of accredited GreenPower they buy is what matters: "It's only the accredited portions that make a difference.

Even if the remainder is renewable, it consists of renewable energy that is already in the grid or already being counted towards mandatory targets."