Do customers really understand the energy ratings on white goods? And if a brand took steps to better inform them, would this make that brand more attractive?
When shopping for white goods, there are key things that we always consider.
One factor, as with any purchase, will be our budget and what will make us spend more within it. Maybe it’s worth paying more to get a larger drum in the washing machine, but a wider choice of spin cycles may not be incentive enough for us to part with more cash. Size is another essential: there’s no point bringing home that huge, two-door, American-style refrigerator if it’s going to be hanging out the kitchen and stopping the hallway door from shutting.
We look at all the features on offer. We may consider online reviews. We’ll note brands and, either consciously or subconsciously, make connections about which are the ‘good’ ones: maybe based on past experience, recommendations from friends, or other factors that we can’t quite put our finger on.
Do we consider how energy efficient the device is? Increasingly, yes. According to the Energy Saving Trust, 96% of UK homeowners are concerned about their home energy efficiency. That’s a great number – in both senses of the word. And hardly surprising, considering we are currently in an energy crisis, with people needing to understand how much appliances cost to run more than ever.
But what if we were to ask those same UK homeworkers to what extent they actually understand the energy ratings that are displayed on their appliances? Yes, the ratings systems has recently changed, but has this gone far enough in providing clear communication to the consumer on what electronic goods cost to run?
Elsewhere on its website, the Trust explains the following under the title ‘How do energy labels work?’:
- Appliances are tested for how much energy they use during typical use. This gives them a rating on a scale of A to G, with A being the most efficient product of its class, and G being the least efficient. Some appliances use an older scale, from A+++ to G, with A+++ being the most efficient.
Sounds simple – alphabetical grades, like back at school. But wait, there’s more:
- In general, appliances are categorised by their size. This means that two different sized appliances with the same energy rating might use different amounts of electricity. For instance, a G-rated 265-litre fridge freezer could cost around £80 a year to run (70kgCO2e), whereas a larger 424-litre fridge freezer with a better F rating could cost around £90 (75kgCO2e) a year to run.
All very clear… right? What about to the exasperated parent standing in front of a long line of dishwashers, looming up from the floor like the bottom half of an enormous mouth, with little money in their wallet but a big decision to make – all while keeping an eye on their children so hopefully none of them locks another in a display chest freezer? White goods are a major domestic purchase – does this person really have enough information to make an informed decision on long-term energy efficiency versus initial outlay?
The Energy Saving Trust does ultimately do a great job of explaining the existing system, offering more detailed guidance about what the labels mean, even going as far as appliance by appliance. But this still requires the customer to take steps, to investigate further and make the correct interpretations.
Let’s say that our parent is browsing the dishwashers and among the familiar A to G, green to red labels, there was one that explained, in plain English, what it would cost to use this particular dishwasher. Year by year, volume of usage, amount of power used – all the important information, just laid out right there, based on a simple measure of cost per kWh.
Well, they might think. Here is a manufacturer who is willing to do the work for me. One who understands that I don’t want to add interpreting data to all my other burdens. And they’ve clearly got nothing to hide, which makes me feel that I can actually trust them. All I want is a simple way to make an informed decision – finally, here’s someone who is actually doing the work to inform me. How refreshing!
Now, where’s that salesperson?
Ninety-six percent. That missing 4% would be described by even the most rigorous statistician as ‘negligible’. Brands would do well to think about how many people they could attract to their products with more transparency on energy efficiency. And with better communication, customers may choose to swap appliances sooner, in order to start making energy cost savings and having less impact on the environment.
We’re not talking about a niche market here; we are, effectively, talking about everyone. Surely that’s the kind of customer base that all brands want to reach?