We don't put up with energy efficiency via inefficient performance

Standards, standards, standards. Maintaining a ‘best in class’ labelling system requires lots of ‘em, it won’t come as a surprise to many. 

Ah, you say, but couldn’t a product be ‘best in class’ for energy efficiency simply by being, well, pretty rubbish at what it was made for? Thankfully, no – that’s where our ‘fit for purpose’ criteria come in. 

Using TVs as an example, theoretically, a company could put a TV on the market with a default mode that’s so lacking in colour that it would be horrible to watch.  If they did, this might result in a lower power consumption figure in default mode to satisfy the EU Eco design directive limits on power consumption. 

But in reality the person watching it would probably just turn the colour up or watch a higher preset mode, rendering the directive a little pointless.  So the luminance of the TV in the default or ‘home’ setting must be at least 65 per cent of what you’d get if you switched to ‘vibrant’ mode or the one they might use in the store, whichever is the brightest preset.  Energy efficient and a good watch – pretty crucial really. 

We also stipulate that irons must reach a certain temperature on each setting, and get a glowing review from Good Housekeeping, Which? or our own performance testing criteria, and vacuum cleaners must give a decent performance cleaning on hard floors and carpets. 

But we’ve saved the best criteria for last: the toast and cake tests. Yep, you read right.

The quick-witted amongst you might guess correctly that this tests the grilling and baking abilities of grills and ovens, respectively.  To test the grill out, someone has to fill the grill pan up with bread – a very logical start in toast preparation.  If the grill is going to satisfy our fit for purpose criteria, there has to be greater than 90 per cent of the bread’s area toasted.  

We have limits as well for the electricity consumption of the grill, but the fitness for purpose criteria ensures you will get a decent cheese-on-toast and not just a semi-melted mess. On to official British Standard test: BS EN 60350:2009, or it’s more commonly known, the cake test. 

Your minimum requirement for an oven is that it would cook your food all the way through.  So, again, pretty logically, the cake test assesses a degree of browning of the top of a cake and of the bottom of a cake, assigning it a number on a scale.  The ‘browning difference’ is the difference between the top and the bottom of the cakes.  

They use a tray of 12 cakes to a stringent recipe for this in various oven positions to make it robust, though no record is made of the taste, alas.

Of course, standards have to change as products develop and energy efficiency becomes more important in new product categories. But setting a new or revising an old standard does involve some serious consultation.  We have forums where we might have 50-odd people from the industry thrashing it out as to what constitutes the ‘best in class’ – so we can robustly claim that we’re not just making it up!   

Energy efficiency and efficient performace – this undoubtedly means that…wait for it…you can have your cake and eat it.

This is the third and final in our mini-series on the machinations behind the Energy Saving Trust Recommended label. You can check out the others here.