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Published: 15 March 2013

Small changes save energy, save environment

Simple changes to the way you use household electricals, such as upgrading to a new A+ or A++ Grade fridge, could reduce your energy usage, save you money and reduce your household’s environmental impact...

How old is your washing machine? According to recent market research, there’s a good chance the answer is ten years or more. Yet evidence to support switching to more modern appliances is mounting; it’s now thought that energy-saving features could play a big role in cutting electricity bills and carbon dioxide emissions. And the industry body AMDEA (The Association of Manufacturers of Domestic Appliances) has called on the Government to encourage consumers to invest in more energy efficient models.

The evidence to switch is supported by a pilot study conducted by researchers in the University of Surrey’s Centre for Environmental Strategy. The study involved observing the ways in which consumers actually go about using electrical appliances in the home.

On an encouraging note, many of those who took part demonstrated environmentally conscientious, ‘green-minded’ behaviour when it came to switching off lights and making sure phones were not left charging overnight. Yet homeowners found it difficult to use energy labels on electrical appliances to guide their choice at the point of purchase, and didn’t routinely use energy-saving features on the appliances they bought.

In cases where homeowners made simple changes to the way they used appliances, substantial energy reductions were recorded. “One household in our study saved almost 60% on the energy used in their existing washing machine just by switching to a low temperature wash – and still with great cleaning results,” reports Professor Matthew Leach, from the University of Surrey’s Centre for Environmental Strategy. “Cash and carbon savings from changing behaviour can be added to the savings from using more modern appliances to become something really significant.”

The researchers found that exchanging older fridge freezers for more up-to-date, Grade A+ or A++, models, helped people reduce their energy consumption between 40 and 60%, with more modest savings of 8-21% associated with dishwasher or washing machine replacements. What’s more, reducing the temperature of a wash helped people make further energy savings of 35-59%.

Improvements in appliance performance mean that replacing an old fridge freezer can bring the same environmental benefit as installing double-glazing, according to AMDEA, who represent over 80% of the domestic appliance industry.

“Today’s new fridge freezer uses just half the power of a new model 20 years ago, and a chest freezer about a third”, says Chief Executive Douglas Herbison. “When you consider that appliances are also generally bigger that is a remarkable result.” He wants to see major appliances included in the Green Deal, or a similar scheme, to encourage households to upgrade.

“The problem is that consumers aren’t being encouraged to replace their old appliances through schemes like the Green Deal, even though the environmental benefits are very significant and changing a fridge freezer is far simpler than, for example, double-glazing your flat.”

Find out more

Download the University of Surrey Efficient Household Appliances pilot study.