Explainer: What do the ticks on the energy labels of appliances mean, and why do they matter?
SINGAPORE: When you're in the market for a new electrical appliance such as a fridge or air conditioner, a number of things might influence your choice such as price and brand.
But what about the green ticks displayed on the stickers on such appliances? You've probably noticed them, but do you know what they mean - apart from an assumption that more green ticks means the appliance is better for the environment?
Earlier this month, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said it will raise the minimum energy performance standards (MEPS) for four appliance types it regulates starting next year.
The move is part of NEA's ongoing efforts to help households become more energy efficient, contribute to reducing carbon emissions and mitigate climate change, it said in a press release.
From 2022, the new MEPS levels for refrigerators, clothes dryers as well as casement and window air-conditioners will be two ticks, while for split-type air-conditioners, the MEPS will be raised by seven per cent within the two-tick level.
But what do these ticks mean in practical terms - both for the consumer and the environment?
What is MELS?
The Mandatory Energy Labelling Scheme (MELS) was first introduced in 2008 for air-conditioning units and refrigerators.
This earlier energy label had a five-band tick rating system - no tick to four ticks. There was a revision done in 2014 to revise the banding, as well as replacing the lowest (no tick) with one tick.
The MELS scheme now also includes clothes dryers, televisions and lamps.
Under the revised system, the most efficient models were awarded five ticks, compared with four in the previous system. Another new feature was to clearly reflect the annual estimated energy cost of using the product.
Manufacturers and suppliers are required to affix energy labels to appliances that are designated as regulated products under the Energy Conservation Act (ECA).
The energy label contains information on the energy consumption and energy costs of an appliance model. It also highlights the relative energy efficiency of the model, through the displaying of ticks.
What do the ticks on energy labels mean?
The more the number of ticks, the better the appliance's relative energy efficiency. The objective of the tick rating system is to help consumers quickly identify more efficient models.
Energy efficiency is measured differently using different energy performance metrics - coefficient of performance (COP) for air-conditioning units, annual energy consumption (AEC) for fridges, and Energy Consumption (EC) per wash for dryers, among others.
In simple terms, an appliance that uses less electricity to produce a particular output is more energy efficient than another appliance that uses more electricity resulting in the same output. That will have a direct impact on your electricity bill.
Depending on the range of the particular energy performance metrics, such an appliance could have the higher tick rating.
How will consumers benefit from using appliances with more ticks on their energy label?
It is worth noting that energy efficient models often have higher upfront costs than less efficient models.
However, the consumer is likely to end up spending less because these models have lower energy costs over their lifespan, an NEA spokesperson told CNA. This means that they have lower life cycle costs - the purchase price added to the energy costs - and wind up costing less overall.
The lifespan of refrigerators and clothes dryers are assumed to be 10 years, while lifespan of air-conditioners are assumed to be 7 years.
What considerations do consumers need to make before purchase?
It is important for consumers to “size” their appliance correctly, the NEA spokesperson said.
“Normally how we advocate consumers to select their appliances is to ensure that they purchase, or they know what they need. For example (for an) aircon (unit), you need to size it properly. If not, even if you buy a five tick air con and if it's oversized or undersized, you can’t actually achieve that savings,” the spokesperson said.
“Then secondly, you need to select your appliances, based on the … the tick ratings - there’s where you can achieve savings.”
Ultimately, it is important to look at the lifecycle costs rather than upfront costs, noted the spokesperson.
“The message that we want consumers to take note of is to look at the lifecycle costs rather than the upfront costs. The more energy efficient products are likely to be more expensive, but in terms of running these appliance(s), there could be monetary savings for them,” said the NEA spokesperson.
What is MEPS?
The Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) are the minimum standards that appliances need to meet in order for them to be approved for use by consumers.
MEPS removes the least energy efficient appliances from the market, and in doing so raises the average energy efficiency of household appliances.
What were the changes made to MEPS recently?
From 2022, the new MEPS levels for refrigerators, clothes dryers as well as casement and window air-conditioners will be two ticks, while for split-type air-conditioners, the MEPS will be raised by seven per cent within the two-tick level, the NEA has said.
The enhanced standards come after consultations with the public and industry in late 2020 and also earlier this year, said NEA.
How do these schemes help the environment?
As part of efforts to tackle climate change, Singapore currently aims to halve its 2030 peak greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, and to achieve net zero emissions "as soon as viable" in the second half of the century.
It can do this by using less carbon-intensive fuels as well as by improving energy efficiency. Improving energy efficiency means using less electricity to accomplish the same tasks.
This in turn reduces demand for power generation, which can be one of the major sources of carbon emissions.
Since the introduction of MELS and MEPS, the average energy efficiency of household refrigerators, air-conditioners and clothes dryers have improved by 46 per cent, 42 per cent and 14 per cent respectively, NEA said previously.
How will NEA enforce standards it has set?
In response to queries from CNA, NEA noted that it conducts regular inspections at both physical stores and online retailers selling such appliances.
“Enforcement actions will be taken against retailers that do not comply with the requirements (for example, by selling non-registered products or displaying wrong labels). NEA has also stepped up surveillance at online retail platforms such as Lazada, Shopee and Qoo10, and online websites of retailers such as Best Denki, Gain City, Harvey Norman and Courts,” said the agency.
“NEA works closely with such online retailers to rectify or remove any listings which contravene the regulations.”