© ebm-papst

New energy label for elec­trical appli­ances

Since March 2021, a new energy label with much more strin­gent spec­i­fi­ca­tions has been in force for many elec­trical appli­ances. The first devices to be affected are house­hold appli­ances such as washing machines and dish­washers. As a pioneer of EC tech­nology and as a devel­op­ment partner, ebm-papst can help manu­fac­turers to bring their devices into the higher effi­ciency classes.

The EU energy effi­ciency label first intro­duced in 1995 was a complete success. Today, elec­trical appli­ances such as washing machines, refrig­er­a­tors, and similar appli­ances are much more effi­cient, and there­fore better for the envi­ron­ment, than they were 20 years ago. This trend gained addi­tional impetus with the intro­duc­tion of the Ecode­sign Direc­tives in the frame­work of the EU direc­tive concerning energy-related prod­ucts (ErP). The scale from A (highest effi­ciency) to G (lowest effi­ciency) and the related colored marking, from green to dark red, helped consumers to iden­tify effi­cient devices at a glance. It provided manu­fac­turers with an incen­tive to make their prod­ucts even more effi­cient.

However, the label’s success has long since over­taken its effec­tive­ness. These days, the vast majority of appli­ances are rated in the highest effi­ciency classes, and the lower classes E, F and G are rarely assigned at all. The subse­quent intro­duc­tion of addi­tional “plus” classes, which permitted a differ­en­ti­a­tion within the highest effi­ciency class (A+ to A+++), has been of little use to customers when deciding which product to buy (Fig. 1). In turn, manu­fac­turers lack the addi­tional incen­tive to develop more effi­cient devices if the label will not visu­ally distin­guish them from the compe­ti­tion for doing so. However, to reduce CO2 emis­sions and achieve climate targets, it is urgent that manu­fac­turers increase effi­ciency levels even further and are more sparing of resources.


Fig. 1: Confusing and unclear: with the old energy label, some effi­ciency classes were only partially or even no longer in use (see faded out rows), depending on the appli­ca­tion. Due to the “plus” classes and different appli­ca­tion-based label stan­dards, they were diffi­cult for consumers to follow.

A new scale for greater effi­ciency

In 2017, the Euro­pean Union decided to completely reform the energy label, and set out the new rules in the frame­work regu­la­tion EU/2017/1369. A new energy label has now been in force for the first appli­ance classes since March 1, 2021. The label will be intro­duced for all other product groups succes­sively (see box text below), as well as retroac­tively for all prod­ucts already on the market.

But that’s not all! The new energy label will also be intro­duced for extractor hoods, dryers, boilers and hot water heaters, as well as a range of other product groups, in the fore­see­able future. Some of the respec­tive Ecode­sign Direc­tives are already in the review process, or will be soon. In the case of boilers and water heaters, for example, this is already underway.

In the case of extractor hoods, we have seen how the previous energy label has been expanded by three “plus” classes in recent years, with the corre­sponding classes E, F, and G being removed in conjunc­tion with this. The review of the rele­vant Ecode­sign Direc­tive has taken place and with it the changeover to the new energy label.

Which device and appli­ances does the energy label apply to?

In prin­ciple, the previous energy labels apply to a total of 15 product groups. These include washing machines and dryers, air condi­tioners, fans, tele­vi­sions, and TV boxes.

The new energy label has been valid for the following types of appli­ances as of
March 1, 2021:

  • Dish­washers
  • Washing machines
  • Washer-dryers (washing machine and dryer in one unit)
  • Refrig­er­a­tors and freezers
  • TVs and moni­tors

Set to follow from September 1, 2021, with an 18-month tran­si­tion period:

  • Light sources

From 2024 (antic­i­pated):

  • Dryers
  • Ovens and extractor hoods
  • Vacuum cleaners
  • Air condi­tioners

From 2026 (antic­i­pated):

  • Room heaters
  • Water heaters
  • Solid fuel boilers

From August 2, 2030, all product groups are to have a new label.

The differ­ences to the previous label are evident (Fig. 2). Anyone who has looked for a dish­washer or washing machine may have rubbed their eyes in disbe­lief and wondered why all the effi­cient devices seem to have disap­peared. Nothing currently on the market occu­pies Class A according to the new rating system. This is completely inten­tional. The inten­tion of the rescaling is not simply to rele­gate the existing effi­ciency classes, but to create new incen­tives for inno­va­tions and for the new scale to be applic­able for the next ten years.

In addi­tion to getting rid of the “plus” classes and returning to the scale from A to G, however, the most impor­tant reform is adapting the eval­u­a­tion criteria and making them more strin­gent. What used to satisfy the criteria for A+++ would now be ranked as Class B in a best-case scenario, and in some cases, as low as Class D.


Fig. 2: Consis­tent and clearly struc­tured, regard­less of which consumer device it concerns: the new energy label makes it much easier for consumers to compare prod­ucts.

This means that it is no longer possible to directly compare old and new labels. Although the energy effi­ciency index (EEI) remains crucial to the clas­si­fi­ca­tion, the under­lying measure­ment and calcu­la­tion methods have changed. The new ones are much more exten­sive and complex. For example, new eval­u­a­tion methods have been intro­duced for measuring energy consump­tion.

A flaw in the old label was that the eco mode was the deci­sive factor in the clas­si­fi­ca­tion, for example, in the case of washing machines and dish­washers. In prac­tice, this does not reflect real user behavior. Eco mode usually took much longer, which meant that many consumers used the faster programs more frequently, which consume more energy and water. In future, the eval­u­a­tion process should also take these factors into account (see overview of box text below).

What is changing as a result of the new label?

The new energy label is intended to better inform consumers about the effi­ciency of a product. Class A is initially being left empty, in order to promote inno­va­tion and to preserve its validity for as long as possible. The most impor­tant changes at a glance are as follows:

  • The “plus” classes A+, A++, and A+++ have been scrapped
  • The new scale ranges from A (highest effi­ciency) to G (lowest effi­ciency)
  • New assess­ment and measure­ment methods apply to the clas­si­fi­ca­tion
  • A QR code links to the “Euro­pean Product Regis­tra­tion Data­base for Energy Labelling” (EPREL). All manu­fac­turers whose devices bear an energy label must register them with EPREL and record the tech­nical data there before they are permitted to sell the prod­ucts in the EU.
  • For the first time, there are also special require­ments for resource effi­ciency (repair and recy­cling capa­bility).

The more strin­gent require­ments are derived from the EU’s Ecode­sign Direc­tives, which were issued and revised at the same time. Among other things, they define minimum energy effi­ciency require­ments. As of a defined target date, it will no longer be permis­sible to sell devices that do not meet these.

As part of this revi­sion, resource effi­ciency has been added as a completely new require­ment. The aim is to make devices easier to repair, so that they can be oper­ated for longer. There­fore, manu­fac­turers are respon­sible for designing their prod­ucts so that parts can be easily removed and installed. And once a consumer product is no longer on the market, certain spare parts must remain avail­able in the short-term for a prescribed period of time. To begin with, this regu­la­tion will apply to washing machines, washer-dryers, dish­washers, refrig­er­a­tors and tele­vi­sions.

Data­base for greater trans­parency

In order to increase trans­parency for consumers and facil­i­tate market moni­toring, a new elec­tronic data­base has been created along­side the new energy labelling regu­la­tion, known as the “Euro­pean Product Regis­tra­tion Data­base for Energy Labelling”, or EPREL for short. It is divided into a public and a non-public area. The latter is only acces­sible to the market super­vi­sory author­i­ties and the Euro­pean Commis­sion, and contains the exten­sive tech­nical docu­men­ta­tion of the prod­ucts.

Appli­ance infor­ma­tion such as manu­fac­turer data, model iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, and energy effi­ciency class is acces­sible to the public. Consumers can find this either on the Internet or using the QR code on the energy label. This makes it much easier for consumers to compare appli­ances from different manu­fac­turers (Fig. 3).


Fig. 3: Old and new labels are not compa­rable. As this example of a fridge shows, there can be major differ­ences. The reason for this is the new testing and eval­u­a­tion criteria. Another new feature is the QR code, which leads directly to the new EPREL data­base, in which all labeled prod­ucts are recorded.

The EC tech­nology pioneer

Along­side the reclas­si­fi­ca­tion of their existing prod­ucts, manu­fac­turers are under consid­er­able pres­sure to inno­vate, so that the appli­ances affected can be rated in higher effi­ciency classes in the future. Unlike when the energy label was first intro­duced in the 1990s, many options for increasing effi­ciency appear to have already been exhausted. Devel­op­ment depart­ments find them­selves asking what improve­ments are left to make to further opti­mize their prod­ucts.

Fan and motor manu­fac­turer ebm-papst is a pioneer in EC tech­nology. Since the first energy label was intro­duced, it has helped manu­fac­turers to ensure that their prod­ucts can compete in terms of effi­ciency, by providing envi­ron­men­tally friendly motors and fans. In the last 20 years, EC tech­nology has replaced AC tech­nology wher­ever possible. This is hardly surprising, as the elec­trical effi­ciency of EC motors far exceeds that of AC motors.

Motors are among the largest current consumers in refrig­er­a­tors, washing machines and dish­washers. Replacing less effi­cient motors with more effi­cient ones is a quick way to achieve good results (Fig. 4). Wher­ever EC tech­nology is not yet in use, they continue to repre­sent an impor­tant step towards producing effi­cient prod­ucts.



Fig. 4: Compar­ison of AC motor and EC motor: The longer the running time, the greater the effi­ciency and there­fore the cost advan­tage of EC tech­nology in compar­ison with AC tech­nology.

The whole system counts

However, the more strin­gent regu­la­tions mean that it is no longer possible to achieve greater effi­ciency simply by using more energy-effi­cient indi­vidual compo­nents such as motors and fans. To achieve greater increases in effi­ciency, it is essen­tial to consider and opti­mize the entire system. To achieve this, it is neces­sary to finely coor­di­nate the compo­nents in the early stages of devel­op­ment, or the effect of the effi­cient EC tech­nology can quickly disap­pear.

In addi­tion, there are many depen­den­cies within a single appli­ance, meaning that consid­ering each indi­vidual compo­nent alone is not enough. For example, in the case of extractor hoods, there are various require­ments that need to be opti­mally coor­di­nated, such as the suction power and the air filtering perfor­mance (of grease and odors). The acoustics must not be ignored either, and the appli­ance should be simple and conve­nient to use. Last but not least, the upcoming review of the old ecode­sign spec­i­fi­ca­tions for extractor hoods will focus specif­i­cally on energy effi­ciency.

As an expert in elec­tronics, motor design and aero­dy­namics, ebm-papst works closely with manu­fac­turers from an early stage to help them select compo­nents for the devel­op­ment of a new product.

When it comes to dish­washers, a blower can perform a lot of tasks, e.g. heating, drying, or providing process air. The same applies to the acoustics. The instal­la­tion and oper­ating condi­tions play a deci­sive role in ensuring that the appli­ance remains quiet during oper­a­tion. In most cases, it is neces­sary to recon­cile various different effi­ciency targets. With a dish­washer or washing machine, manu­fac­turers must focus on saving both energy and water, without impacting perfect rinsing or washing results.

This makes finding the optimum oper­ating range much more chal­lenging. As an expert in elec­tronics, motor design and aero­dy­namics, ebm-papst works closely with manu­fac­turers from an early stage to help them select compo­nents for the devel­op­ment of a new product. The devel­opers rely on state-of-the-art labo­ra­to­ries with test stands specif­i­cally equipped to deal with these issues, as well as special simu­la­tion tools.  

More intel­li­gence for compo­nents

In the future, the intel­li­gent inter­play between many different factors may become the most impor­tant element in achieving further energy savings. As it is becoming more and more crucial to opti­mize the overall system, the indi­vidual compo­nents must be designed for optimum compat­i­bility and, increas­ingly, commu­ni­cate with one another.

For example, if the control system knows the exact oper­ating point of a fan, it can cali­brate it using data from the other compo­nents and, depending on the oper­ating condi­tions, auto­mat­i­cally adjust various factors, such as the speed. As a result, the use of sensors is becoming increas­ingly impor­tant, and with it, the neces­sary commu­ni­ca­tions inter­faces.

With “Green­In­tel­li­gence”, ebm-papst offers and develops ecolog­i­cally sustain­able solu­tions for fans and motors that enable intel­li­gent control and networking with other compo­nents.

Forward looking and sustain­able

This also applies to resource effi­ciency. Using computer-aided simu­la­tion tools, it is possible to opti­mize the use of mate­rials as early as the design phase. Further­more, motors and fans are gener­ally designed for dura­bility and robust­ness and have frequently proven to have a long service life on the test stand.

Supple­menting this with precise knowl­edge of real oper­ating states helps to achieve maximum resource effi­ciency and avail­ability throughout the appliance’s service life. The housing and inter­faces can also be designed to make compo­nents easy to replace, should this need ever arise.

Further­more, motors and fans are gener­ally designed for dura­bility and robust­ness and have frequently proven to have a long service life on the test stand.

It now remains to be seen whether the new energy label will be as successful as its prede­cessor. Esti­mates by the Euro­pean Union assume that by 2030, the set of measures from the new Ecode­sign Direc­tives will achieve annual EU-wide energy savings of 167 terawatt hours (TWh). This roughly corre­sponds to the annual energy consump­tion of Denmark. Broken down, this means that on average, Euro­pean house­holds could save 150 euros per year.

The topic of “effi­ciency” is not only rele­vant for the Euro­pean market. Non-Euro­pean coun­tries and regions, such as the USA, are also contin­u­ously tight­ening the criteria for their respec­tive energy labels.

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