White Goods: New energy efficiency regulations will make household appliances more affordable and sustainable

An announcement from the UK Government on March 10th, 2021 outlined plans to implement legislation which will make appliances like fridges, washing machines, and televisions cheaper to run and longer lasting.

UK consumers will soon find that their home appliances have a longer lifespan and greater cost-effectiveness, following the announcement of new energy efficiency legislation which will be implemented across the nation.

This will primarily affect ‘white goods’ (common household appliances), with UK Ministers expected to release strict new regulations regarding the assembly and distribution of appliances, as well as the accessibility of parts and repairs.

Sustainable Builds and Affordable Repairs

A key part of this regulation will involve tackling ‘premature obsolescence’ – a practice whereby manufacturers can implement an intentionally short life-span into the design of a product – which often leads to expensive repairs or replacements for consumers when their appliance inevitably breaks down.

Scottish MP Angela Crawley, speaking to The Mail on Sunday, called planned obsolescence ‘a cynical marketing strategy’, condemning its ‘damaging impact on the environment as well as consumers.’

From Summer 2021, manufacturers will also be required, by law, to produce accessible spare parts for appliances (not previously available to consumers) in the event that a product runs into a fault or issue.

For consumers, this is expected to lengthen the lifespan of white goods by around 10 years, while also making repairs far less expensive thanks to the availability of spare parts.  

‘Right to Repair’

‘The Restart Project’, a London-based charitable incorporated organisation (CIO), is dedicated to spreading awareness and information to help increase the sustainability and environmental efficiency of household items and appliances.

The organisation co-founded the European Union’s  ‘Right to Repair’ campaign, and are strong advocators for the implementation of the campaign within the UK. The campaign strongly promotes the rights of consumers to longevity in their household electronics and white goods, as well as accessible and affordable repairs in the event that an appliance suffers a fault or is broken.

Through the implementation of the Government’s new energy efficient plans, consumers will not only be entitled to greater value and longevity in their appliances, but will also have greater access than ever before to accurate information about the products they buy, spare parts or tools, and affordable and reliable repairs.  

Better for the Environment

Beyond the financial benefits which consumers are expected to reap from these changes, the UK government hopes that its energy-conscious plans will demonstrate equally advantageous results on an environmental and ecological level. It is estimated that these energy efficiency regulations will aid in reducing the level of electrical waste output within the UK – a figure currently sitting at around 1.5 million tonnes annually.

Beyond this, the plan to make household appliances last longer is expected to create a more sustainable environmental impact, as part of a wider government initiative to reduce carbon emissions.

In a statement on the government’s plans to move ahead with the scheme, Business and Energy Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng expressed hope that the energy efficiency framework “will push electrical products to use even less energy and material resources, saving people money on their bills and reducing carbon emissions as we work to reach net zero by 2050.”

In conversation with BBC News, MP Philip Dunne expressed support for the initiative from the Commons Environmental Audit Committee, stating that “cracking down on planned obsolescence in electrical items is key to tackling the e-waste tsunami.”

By tackling the current unsustainability of household appliances, the Government will act in accordance with calls to increase the UK’s environmental ambitions for climate-awareness, which were established post-Brexit.

Commenting on the weighty environmental implications of the plans, Dunne stated: “Making spare parts available is the first step in creating a circular economy where we use, reuse and recycle products. We must stop using and disposing quite so much: we must take action if we are to protect the environment for generations to come.”

Simplified Energy Labelling System

An additional focus of the legislation announced by the government will be to implement a simplified system of labelling (or grading) to electronic appliances and white goods, which currently operate on a classification system of A+, A++, or A+++. This system, originally adopted in compliance with European Union energy efficiency standards, is now considered outdated to some, as newer standards of energy efficiency have since been released.

The new system will operate on an A to G classification system, with tougher levels of restriction and requirement applied to each level, so that only a small number of extremely efficient products will be classed as ‘A’ standard.

This updated system is expected to make recognizing appliance efficiency levels simpler for consumers, allowing people to have a clearer understanding of how sustainable of efficient their product will be before they have it installed.

Emilie Carmichael, head of international collaboration at Energy Saving Trust, affirms that “Simplifying the way energy efficiency is displayed on labels will help consumers to make more informed choices to reduce their energy consumption and bills.”

The changes summarised:

  • The UK government has announced plans to introduce new legislation, with regulations which will help make ‘white goods’ like fridges, washing machines, TVs, and other household appliances more sustainable and affordable for consumers to run.
  • This will involve illegalizing ‘planned obsolescence’, a process by which manufacturers deliberately shorten the life of an appliance in its design or assembly.
  • Manufacturers will be required, by law, to make appliance parts or tools available, giving consumers an affordable and accessible way to repair their appliances at home. This will not only be financially beneficial to consumers, but will also contribute to the UK’s initiatives to lower carbon emissions and become more climate-conscious by 2050.
  • Plans to boost energy efficiency also involves the introduction of a new system by which the efficiency of appliances will be assessed and labelled, moving from the classifications of A+, A++, and A+++, to a scale from A-G. This is expected to make choosing an appliance simpler for customers, while also making the requirements for each level of efficiency stricter.
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