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Understanding An Energy Label Can Help Lower Your Electrical Bill

Did you know that the little yellow label on your ref or air con can show if you'll have better energy consumption this long, hot summer? Here's how to read it and use it to your advantage.

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Photography: Collages by JP Meneses

You may say that you are fine being in a relationship with no label, but from a more enlightened perspective, it is really better to have one. This is especially true if you are investing in it for the long term—having clear labels is a way to set parameters and to manage expectations.

We are talking, of course, about the energy labels on your appliances. A conversation about relationship labels is best saved for another time, and best served with an alcoholic beverage. Regarding home appliances, the government has mandated that appliances carry energy ratings which will give you an idea of how much each item will bring into the larger picture, a.k.a. your electricity bill.

If you are shopping for new appliances, it is nice to imagine how a certain model looks in your home, but it is more important to check out how much electricity you will be feeding the thing. It may seem less sexier to compare products according to its energy consumption, but if you want to keep your blood pressure at a normal level every time the Meralco man comes around with your bill, it is important to take note of this.   

What you need to do is to look for a bright yellow sticker called an Energy Label that comes with the product display and compare it with the other items in the same category. That yellow sticker contains information on how you can calculate the amount of electricity that product needs.     

Numbers matter, so do stars



Two of the sanity-saving appliances on these long hot summers are the room air-conditioner and refrigerator, so we start our crash course on energy labels with that. The Department of Energy site gives this useful piece of advice—whenever you shop for a room air conditioner compare the Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) and calculate the energy consumption and operating costs of different brands and models.

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(1) The EER is that number that is printed inside a small box. It is the ratio of the cooling capacity (in British thermal units [Btu] per hour) to the power input (in watts). The rule of thumb here is, the higher the EER rating, the more efficient the air conditioner. When buying a new room air conditioner, look for the Energy Star label too. This certifies that the unit meets international standards of energy efficiency. 

If you want to get really down and dirty with numbers, there are more intensive ways to figure out exactly how much energy will be expended by the unit. You can check the air con’s cooling capacity in kilojoules per hour to figure out the maximum amount of heat that it can remove from an enclosed space. The Power Consumption guide tells you the wattage of how rapidly energy is used when you go full power.

You can also whip out that calculator and multiply the power consumption indicated on the upper right hand corner of the label (2) after converting it to Kilowatts with the energy cost, which is number of hours you intend to keep the air-con turned on in a month and the current power rates. Technically, though, you should be fine with the EER and energy star ratings. And don’t forget to check if the brand, model, and type indicated on the upper left hand corner of the label (3) matches the appliance that you are inspecting.

With refrigerators and other appliances, a higher EEF (Energy Efficient Factors), means a lower operating cost. Since refrigerators are left running all the time, the computation is a little bit different too. You only need to multiply the energy consumption with the cost of electricity in your area.   

Lighting fixtures have their own labels, which tell you about the wattage and the efficacy or the measure of how much light it gives out compared to the amount of power it uses. The higher the efficacy number, the more savings you will have. LED lights also come with an average number of hours of its life span. 

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With the TRAIN Law hiking electricity charges, it is prudent to look for these figures even in your existing appliances. If you are not ready to switch to more energy efficient brands at the moment, you could think about ways to help reduce its energy consumption, such as treating your ref to a more regular defrosting session, and making sure to unplug your appliances that act as “energy phantoms” when they are turned off or not in use, such as your TV, game console, and microwave oven.

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