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A guide to energy-efficiency labels

Learn how to read the EnerGuide label and other energy-labelling standards to choose the most energy-efficient appliances for your home.

With many products carrying claims that they’re “green” or “eco-friendly,” making wise, energy-efficient choices while shopping can seem complicated.

Fortunately, many energy-consuming products are regulated by the Canadian government and carry the EnerGuide label. This means a product has been tested and meets or exceeds minimum energy performance standards set by Canada’s Energy Efficiency Regulations.

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Learn how to read the EnerGuide label.

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Here’s what you need to know about the EnerGuide label and other energy-labelling standards to help you choose verified energy-saving products.

The EnerGuide label

For several major household appliances – including refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers, dryers, room air conditioners and ovens – the EnerGuide label is mandatory, based on federal regulations for energy efficiency.

Each EnerGuide label on an appliance shows how much energy the model would consume (in kilowatt-hours, or kWh) under standardized, average Canadian conditions. The label will also tell you where the model stacks up on a scale from the least-efficient models in its class to the most efficient. It’s important to compare models that are similar, so look out for the model type and size on the label.

As new appliance models are released, they’ll often be more efficient than older models. This means that where a model’s energy consumption stands on the scale today may change in the future. Electricity rates can also change, and will influence the cost to operate an appliance. However, its energy consumption in kWh will stay essentially the same, so aiming for a lower number is always best.

There are also voluntary EnerGuide labels, including those on furnaces, central air conditioners and air-source heat pumps Similar to appliance labels, EnerGuide labels on these kinds of equipment indicate how a given model compares to others like it.

You may also see the black and yellow EnergyGuide label, which is the American version of the EnerGuide label. Both countries have similar testing methods for energy efficiency, but the range you see on the scale may differ, as the United States may have different models of appliances available than Canada. The American label also provides an estimated yearly operating cost amount, which may not be accurate in Canada based on where you live and your electricity rates.

EnerGuide for heating and cooling

In addition, each type of heating and cooling equipment’s label lists efficiency measures other than kilowatt-hours, based on industry standards. In each case, the higher the number, the more energy-efficient the equipment will be. The measures include:

The annual fuel utilization efficiency (AFUE) on furnaces: This is the industry standard measure of how efficiently a gas furnace converts fuel into energy over the course of a heating season. For example, an 80 per cent AFUE rating means the furnace converts 80 per cent of the energy it uses into heat. The higher the number, the better. Keep in mind that the AFUE rating shows fuel efficiency for natural gas, not how efficiently a furnace uses electricity to operate controls, fans or pumps. A higher AFUE rating will not necessarily help you save on your electricity bill.

The seasonal energy-efficiency ratio (SEER) for central air conditioners and air-source heat pumps: SEER calculates the cooling output the equipment provides, divided by how much power is consumed over a typical seasonal cooling period (i.e., in the warmer months when it’s running). The higher the number, the better.

The combined energy-efficiency ratio (CEER) for window air conditioners: The energy-efficiency ratio is calculated by dividing the cooling capacity, measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs), to the power inputted in watts. This is measured based on fixed conditions, including the outside temperature and humidity level. The “combined” ratio also factors in standby power use (when the unit is on but not running). The higher the number, the better.

Download our infographic on how to use the EnerGuide label to choose the most energy-efficient model.

The ENERGY STAR® label

The ENERGY STAR® label is a simple way to identify which energy-consuming products, including appliances, lighting and electronics, are energy efficient. On major appliances, the ENERGY STAR® label will sometimes be on the EnerGuide label itself.

The ENERGY STAR® program is run by the United States Environmental Protection Agency and its blue label is internationally recognized. The label indicates that a product has been tested and is verified to offer energy savings, without sacrificing performance, features or comfort.

Each year, ENERGY STAR® also designates a list of products as “Most Efficient,” based on their performance and technological innovation. The products that make that list will have higher energy savings, which often means more cost savings.

Energy-efficiency verification marks

The Canadian government’s energy-efficiency regulations require products imported into Canada or shipped between provinces or territories to carry the EnerGuide label, plus an energy-efficiency verification mark.

The marks will not always be the same, but they must come from an organization that the Standards Council of Canada accredits, such as CSA Group, UL Verification Services or Intertek Testing Services. If you see an energy-efficiency verification label, check that the organization providing it is listed on the Standards Council of Canada website.

Safety labels

Finally, when shopping for energy-efficient appliances, electronics or any other electrical products, be on the lookout for safety certification labels. Any electrical product that plugs into an outlet has to meet Canadian national safety standards and be certified by an accredited certification body.

These certifications often come from organizations similar to those that provide energy-efficiency verification marks, such as CSA and UL. Just as you would with energy-efficiency verification marks, check that the organization providing the safety label is credible and listed on the Standards Council of Canada website.