What Is The Yellow Energy Sticker On Appliances?

What is the yellow energy sticker?

The yellow energy sticker, officially called the EnergyGuide label, is a sticker that provides information about the energy efficiency and estimated yearly operating costs of major home appliances in the United States. It has been required on certain appliance models since the 1970s as part of the national Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA).

The purpose of the yellow EnergyGuide sticker is to help consumers compare the energy usage and costs of different appliance models as they shop. Having this standardized information available allows buyers to factor energy efficiency into their purchase decision. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the label can save consumers hundreds of dollars over the life of an appliance by providing the ability to choose a more efficient model.

The EnergyGuide label has been required for refrigerators since 1979, room air conditioners since 1980, and other major appliances since the mid-1990s. The yellow sticker provides key data points like estimated yearly energy consumption, a comparison to similar models, and estimated yearly operating cost based on national averages.

Overall, the easily recognizable yellow EnergyGuide sticker serves as a helpful resource for consumers to make informed purchases, compare energy efficiency between models, and potentially lower home energy costs.

Appliances required to have sticker

Major home appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, air conditioners, furnaces, boilers, heat pumps, and water heaters are required by federal law to have the yellow EnergyGuide label (source 1). This requirement applies to any appliance that plugs in or runs on electricity, natural gas, oil, or propane with a capacity greater than specific thresholds set by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Department of Energy (DOE) (source 2).

The EnergyGuide label provides standardized energy consumption and efficiency information to help consumers compare different appliance models (source 2). Having this sticker is mandatory for large appliances under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act and the FTC’s Appliance Labeling Rule (source 1). Small appliances like toasters, coffee makers, and blenders have the option but are not required to carry the EnergyGuide label (source 3).

Energy efficiency ratings

a close up image of the yellow energy guide label

The yellow energy sticker displays an appliance’s energy efficiency rating on a scale from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient). This rating system allows consumers to easily compare the energy usage and operating costs of different models when shopping.

Appliances with an A rating are the most energy efficient, using the least amount of electricity or gas to perform normal functions. An A-rated appliance will have the lowest operating costs over its lifetime compared to less efficient models. As the scale moves down, energy usage and costs increase – a G-rated appliance has very high running costs.

The rating is determined by testing the appliance under controlled conditions and calculating its estimated annual energy consumption for normal use. The lower the energy usage, the higher the rating. Along with the A-G scale, the energy sticker may also display the appliance’s estimated kWh per year or gas consumption.

The rating takes into account differences between models in terms of features, components, size and other characteristics. So for example, a large A-rated refrigerator may use more total energy than a small B-rated model, but is more efficient when factors like volume are accounted for.

The energy efficiency ratings help consumers choose appliances that provide the functionality they need while saving them money on energy bills in the long run. Appliances with higher ratings generally have a higher upfront cost, but the energy savings can make up for this over time.

Testing and certification

For a product to display the ENERGY STAR label, it must be independently certified to meet strict energy efficiency requirements set by the EPA. The specific test standards vary based on the product type. For example, refrigerators and freezers must adhere to testing protocols from the US Department of Energy, while windows and residential heating and cooling equipment follow procedures outlined by the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI).

Third-party certification bodies accredited by EPA conduct laboratory testing to verify the product’s energy performance. These bodies include Intertek, UL, CSA Group, and others. The testing process evaluates the energy consumption of the product during typical usage. If the product meets or exceeds the efficiency requirements for that product type, the certification body will authorize the manufacturer to apply the ENERGY STAR label.

According to the EPA, “Products that are certified as ENERGY STAR prevent greenhouse gas emissions by meeting strict energy efficiency specifications set by the government. These products deliver the same or better performance as comparable models while using less energy and saving money.” The testing and certification process ensures consumers can trust the ENERGY STAR label to identify the most efficient products on the market across many categories.

Regional Differences

Energy efficiency rating systems and label designs vary across different countries and regions globally. Some key regional differences include:

In the United States, the yellow EnergyGuide label was introduced in the 1980s and provides energy efficiency information on appliances like refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers and air conditioners. Testing and certification is handled by the Department of Energy and the Federal Trade Commission. The label uses a scale showing estimated yearly operating costs and compares energy use against similar model appliances (https://www.adams-air.com/houston/efficiency-history-and-standards.php).

The European Union uses the EU Energy Label with a scale from A (most efficient) to G (least efficient). This label covers appliances, lighting, and heating and cooling systems. The design and approach was revised in 2021 to use a stricter A-G scale. Certification involves third-party testing against EU standards (https://jacksglassshop.com/blog-what-does-that-energy-efficiency-label-mean-exactly/).

China uses a China Energy Label system introduced in 2005. It rates appliances on a scale of 1-5 stars plus overall percentage efficiency. China adjusts its testing standards and minimum efficiency requirements on a frequent basis (https://www.adams-air.com/houston/efficiency-history-and-standards.php).

Other major markets like India, Brazil, Canada, Australia, and Japan have all introduced some form of mandatory energy efficiency labeling on appliances and equipment.


While energy efficiency labels like the yellow sticker have benefits, they also have some limitations and criticisms.

One common criticism is that the stickers oversimplify energy efficiency into a single letter grade or number, when appliance energy use can vary significantly depending on real-world usage and conditions (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0954409720926362). For example, a refrigerator may get an “A” rating based on lab tests, but actual energy use could be higher in a hot kitchen.

Additionally, some critics argue the rating systems have not kept pace with improvements in technology, so most appliances now get high ratings. This reduces the ability to differentiate between more or less efficient models (https://www.spglobal.com/esg/insights/problematic-corporate-purchases-of-clean-energy-credits-threaten-net-zero-goals).

There are also concerns that the labels can be misleading to consumers. An “efficient” appliance may lead some users to increase usage under the mistaken belief they are not using extra energy (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/271722449_The_Misleading_Effect_of_Energy_Efficiency_Information_on_Perceived_Energy_Friendliness_of_Electric_Goods).

To address these issues, there have been calls to update the rating systems to better reflect real-world usage, use more stringent criteria, and provide clearer information to consumers to avoid misconceptions.

Impact on consumers

The yellow energy sticker provides consumers with important information that influences their purchase decisions for appliances. Studies have found that the presence of the energy label has a significant impact on consumer choices, with shoppers more likely to select appliances with higher efficiency ratings (CLASP, 2024). The sticker enables consumers to easily compare models and choose options that will save them the most money on utility bills over the lifetime of the product.

Research shows that for major appliances like refrigerators, consumers are willing to pay more upfront for options that are rated A++ or higher on the sticker. This is because the long-term energy savings offset the initial cost premium (UK Government, 2018). With rising energy prices, the yellow sticker gives consumers a simple way to pick appliances that will reduce their energy consumption and lower their utility expenses. The visibility of the rating on the shelf makes the energy impact hard for shoppers to ignore.

Overall, the energy label empowers consumers to make informed choices that benefit their wallets and the environment. By providing key data in an easy-to-understand format, the yellow sticker helps guide consumers towards energy efficiency.

Impact on manufacturers

The yellow energy sticker has led manufacturers to focus on improving the energy efficiency of their products in order to achieve higher ratings and be more appealing to consumers. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the EnergyGuide label was implemented to help “assist consumers in making energy-efficient purchase decisions” (Source). This has created competition among manufacturers to continously enhance energy efficiency and achieve the highest ratings possible.

With the energy sticker certifying the efficiency of appliances, manufacturers are driven to develop more efficient technology and production methods. As Energy5 notes, “manufacturers are constantly trying to design electronics that consume lesser energy than their competitors” (Source). The rating system pushes innovation in energy-saving features and components. Consumers are also more likely to purchase appliances with higher ratings, incentivizing manufacturers to obtain the best label possible.

Overall, the standardized energy sticker has spurred meaningful improvements in the energy efficiency of household appliances over time. Manufacturers now actively compete to achieve the highest ratings, resulting in more options for energy-conscious consumers.

Future outlook

There are proposals to update and improve the energy label system in the future. One idea is to make the labels more dynamic by incorporating smart technology. As smart appliances become more common, the labels could display real-time energy usage information to consumers. This would allow people to better understand the energy impact of different settings and modes on smart appliances.

Another proposal is to move to a rating system with more categories to better differentiate between the most efficient models. There is concern the current A-G scale is not granular enough. More rating levels would encourage further improvements in energy efficiency from manufacturers.

The role of smart appliances could also be better emphasized on future labels. Features like remote access and control, usage monitoring, and integration with smart grids are not highlighted currently. Smart functionality allows appliances to operate more efficiently, and this could be showcased.

There will likely be a continued push to make the labels simpler and easier for consumers to understand. The icons and layout may be refined based on user testing and feedback. The goal is to maximize the labels’ impact on purchase decisions.


The yellow energy sticker seen on appliances provides consumers with important information to guide their purchasing decisions. By displaying an appliance’s energy efficiency rating, usually on a scale from A+++ to D, the sticker gives a quick snapshot of how much energy that model will consume in typical use. Appliances with higher ratings generally use less energy and will cost less to operate over their lifetime, saving consumers money on utility bills. These ratings are determined through standardized lab tests run by certification bodies to enable fair comparisons across brands and models. While the rating systems vary between regions like Europe, the US, and Australia, they consistently aim to shift purchases towards more efficient appliances that reduce energy consumption and environmental impact. The stickers empower consumers to make informed choices and incentivize manufacturers to design for better efficiency. Looking ahead, ratings will likely keep getting stricter to eliminate the least efficient models from the market. With the help of the ubiquitous yellow sticker, individuals can reduce their home energy use and contribute to a more sustainable future.

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