Energy in Industry
Wednesday, 27 March 2013 10:27

Keep your eye on the label

Website:In line with international trends, the voluntary implementation of appliance labelling was introduced in South Africa a while ago to make end-users more aware of their energy consumption.

From industries to households, South Africa is an energy glutton. This is either due to old and inefficient equipment, or bad habits. As such, consumers need to make concerted efforts to curtail electricity use. Appliance labelling in the residential market is an efficient way to improve energy-efficiency.

The voluntary implementation of appliance labelling was introduced in South Africa a while ago to make end-users more aware of their energy consumption. The aim was to spur consumers on to buy energy-efficient appliances and apply more energy-efficient practices in their homes. Hopefully this will lead to a knock-on effect that will help to save the country’s resources and reduce carbon emissions.

“Appliance manufacturers, importers and consumers all have a vested interest in energy-efficiency standards and labels. It helps to eliminate sub-standard models on the market, while also mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”

A new approach

The National Energy-Efficiency Strategy for the Republic of South Africa of March 2005 (reviewed in October 2008) highlights the fact that our economy uses too much energy compared to the rand-value output. Two explanations are given for the current situation. Firstly, South Africa has an energy-intensive economy and secondly, a great deal of energy is wasted across the board, from mining, commercial and industrial sectors to residential electricity users.

The strategy proposes that by 2015 energy demand should be reduced by 12%. In the residential sector, the target is a final energy demand reduction of 10% by 2015. In principle, an average reduction of 1% per year has to be achieved between 2005 and 2015. The strategy outlines the following interventions that need to be made in the residential sector:

•    Implementing mandatory standards.
•    Appliance labelling.
•    Efficient lighting.
•    Standards for non-electric appliances.
•    Public awareness.

“Energy-efficient household appliances and implementing equipment efficiency standards have been shown to be of the most successful energy-saving measures, according to the strategy.”

Household practices
A previous analysis of South Africa’s electricity usage that was conducted by Statistics SA shows that electricity is the primary energy source in households. This includes lighting (80%), cooking (67%) and heating (59%). A metering campaign of electricity consumption per appliance, which was conducted by Eskom, showed that water heaters, domestic refrigeration, lighting and cooking appliances are the largest household electricity consumers.

Energy-efficiency standards
South Africa’s energy-efficiency standards are a set of procedures and regulations that prescribe the minimum energy performance of manufactured products. According to the Department of Energy (DoE), together with labelling, energy-efficiency standards can be the most cost-effective way to help South Africa reduce energy demand, while stimulating economic growth. As such, demand-side energy-efficiency monitoring focuses on appliance standards and labelling, as well as energy-efficiency.

SANS 941
To date, the South African National Standard (SANS) 941 for energy-efficiency of electrical and electronic equipment is a voluntary standard that is regulated by the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS), and through the implementation of the Energy-Efficient Standard and Labelling Programme as a combined effort by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the DoE. The standard aims to empower consumers to make informed choices when buying electronic appliances.

This standard covers energy-efficiency requirements, measurement methods and energy-efficiency labelling of the following electrical and electronic equipment:
•    Non-ducted air-conditioners that do not exceed 5kW, as well as heat pumps.
•    Audio and video equipment, including video-recording equipment, set top boxes (STBs), audio equipment and multi-function equipment for consumer-use television sets that include – but are not limited to – these with a cathode ray tube (CRT), liquid crystal display (LCD), a plasma display panel (PDP) or projection technologies.
•    Dishwashers.
•    Electric lamps.
•    Electric ovens.
•    Refrigerators and freezers.
•    Tumble dryers.
•    Washer-dryer combinations.
•    Washing machines.

In the case of dishwashers and washing machines, water consumption is also covered. Importantly, this standard does not cover requirements for the safety of apparatus.

A joint initiative
SANS 941 also works in conjunction with the state power utility Eskom’s 49M initiative, which has direct reference to the savings role that can be played by the country’s 52-million citizens in stimulating demand reduction.
Standards labelling
The label that is used to indicate energy-efficiency is similar to the one used in European Union (EU) member states. The only difference is that the EU flag is replaced by the Energy Star, the DoE symbol for the Energy-Efficiency Initiative. All products that are legally imported or produced in South Africa carry the Energy Star, which is visible in the bottom right corner of the appliance. Appliances also carry a label indicating energy consumption.

Appliances are graded using capital letters from “A” to “G” to indicate a product’s energy consumption. A product with the letter “A” indicates that it uses energy or electricity most efficiently, while a product with a “G” grading indicates the poorest performing product in that product category, such as refrigerators. The South African National Accreditation System (SANAS) and the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) determine the A-G grading. This is described in the relevant standard for each appliance. China has a similar label with five levels instead of the EU’s seven. North African countries, such as Tunis, have the same A-G grading, but it is displayed slightly different.

The DoE says: “In South Africa we have chosen to adopt the label with the same standards used in Europe.” As such, the minimum standards for many appliances have been adopted from the European market. This will enable products to move freely between the continents without being retested and relabelled. Europe introduced energy-efficiency appliance labelling in 1994. Experience has shown a significant increase in the number of A-C-rated products that were purchased.

Grading information
The A-G grading will form part of the instruction manual inside the appliance box, but retailers can also display the grading on the actual appliance if it has been unpacked and is on display.

Label information
The energy label on household appliances should be clearly marked with:
•    Name of producer.
•    Model number.
•    Class number, indicated by a capital letter “A”, “B”, “C”, “D”, “E”, “F” or “G” to indicate the energy consumption of the appliance.
•    Washing machines will be graded both in terms of washing performance and spinning performance and water usage too, if possible.
•    All products that are legally imported or produced in South Africa carry the Energy Star, which will be visible in the bottom right corner of the appliance.

International rating systems
As many appliance models are imported, South Africa needs to understand the overseas systems for appliance labelling, as well as our own.
The Energy Saving Trust’s scheme recommends products that meet strict efficiency criteria. These guidelines are set by an independent panel and reviewed annually. “A” is the highest rating. Only the most efficient products carry the “Energy Saving Recommended” logo that promises that these products have met the strict energy-efficiency criteria, will cost less to run and help to reduce carbon emissions.
The European Union (EU) energy label rates products from “A” (the most efficient) to “G” (the least efficient). By European law, EU Directive 92/75/EC, the label must be shown on all refrigeration appliances, electric tumble driers, washing machines, washer dryers, dishwashers, electric ovens, air-conditioners, lamps and light bulb packaging.
Some appliances are given double “A” or even triple “A” ratings. This is because they have two or three different energy-using functions that need to be measured. For example, a washing machine can be rated “A” for energy consumption,“A” for wash quality and “A” for spin. Tumble dryers are energy-inefficient, so it is unlikely to find one in the marketplace with an “A” rating for energy consumption.

Fridges, on the other hand, under a new EU Directive have revised criteria for “A+” products, as the refrigerant used varies and can have a significant global warming potential, depending on the manufacturing process and agents used.

Appliance efficiency programme
The DoE’s nationwide appliance efficiency programme is monitored through energy labels on electricity appliances and minimum energy performance standards. The development objectives of this programme coincide with the goals of the national Energy-Efficiency Strategy.
•    The environmental goal is to reduce greenhouse gases from energy consumption through the introduction of high-efficiency (optimal electricity consumption) appliances.
•    The social goal is to introduce energy-efficient appliances into the market. An added benefit is thatpoorer consumers have the option of purchasing appliances that are cheaper to run.
•    The economic goal is to support the development of a household appliance industry that produces products that compete at an international level.
•    The department also aims to mitigate the effects of peak demand on power capacity by focusing on introducing electrical appliances with lower electricity consumption to the market.

Implementation of the scheme
A voluntary labelling programme for refrigerators was introduced in 2005 to reduce electricity consumption from domestic refrigeration in South Africa. However the programme failed during the implementation stage. Consultations held with the DoE and National Energy-Efficiency Agency (NEEA) determined why it failed. After the consultations it was concluded that the reasons for failure were based on consumer needs.

The initiative was launched while electricity tariff increases were still in line with inflation. During this period the electricity price was at a level where the running costs of appliances were not considered. Consumers assumed that they were ensured of a reliably energy supply. Moreover, the national efficiency standards were only available for refrigerators and could not be extended to other appliances. The initiative did not have enough funds for a sufficient communication and awareness campaign, and the limited exposure that the programme received was disjointed and random. As a result the campaign was poorly communicated to the general public and generated little interest. Sales staff at retail stores were also not trained which was also due to a lack of funds and resources.

Full acknowledgement and thanks are given to the SABS (, the Southern Africa Association for Energy-Efficiency (, the Department of Trade and Industry and for providing the information to write this article.

GIL Africa 2017