If you look at a ratings system and assume that an A grade is best, you might soon have to change your outlook – especially when buying ‘wet’ appliances like washing machines. Get ready for A+++.
Think back to the last time you bought a fridge, freezer, dishwasher or washing machine. Question one – did you take notice of the A-G efficiency ratings? Question two – did you fully understand what these ratings meant?
I’m guessing that for most of you the answer is ‘yes’ to both – after all, understanding that A is best and G is worst is generally accepted to be the normal way of things.
Plans for ‘beyond A’ grades
So it’s taken me a while to work out why the EU is proposing to re-grade energy labels for these appliances by introducing three new ‘beyond A’ grades: A+, A++ and A+++.
I can see the logic in theory. They want to raise the bar for top grades since 90% of many appliances now sold in the UK are currently A-rated. It’s great that they’re trying to make it easier to identify the most energy efficient appliances, as this can help you save money on your energy bill. But since the majority tend to be A-rated already, many of the B classes and below are just going to be empty.
In my mind it would make far more sense to keep the current A-G labels and reset the bar for each grade, rather than plonking a load of A+ categories on the top. Our research shows that this is what consumers understand best, and it’s something we’ve lobbied for, but sadly this option was rejected some time ago.
Can you better the ‘best’?
What is it with our obsession for bettering the best? This all feels like the GCSE and A-level trend for A*s – they make A grades feel like second best, when surely the whole point of an A is that it’s the top grade?
Essentially, the principle is the same here: too many ‘best’ marks mean you have to change the meaning of what ‘best’ is. With this system, manufacturers will be able to label products that aren’t the most energy efficient as A-rated – but will consumers understand that these are no longer best?
The government has apparently pledged to help communicate the change so customers can get their heads round it, but it’s unclear how they expect to do this in practice. On top of this, if these proposals become law, the new and old labels can both be used for a while, potentially causing even more confusion.
So, let’s try and make a simple rule. The next time you go to buy a ‘wet’ or ‘cold’ appliance, try to remember – the alphabet may no longer apply.