Is energy labelling useful?

The energy label is an incentive label, which has proved its effectiveness in promoting energy-efficient appliances. It has strongly stimulated the development and sale of increasingly efficient electrical appliances. Building on this success, energy labels now also apply to the mobility and construction sectors, while the Energy Star label has become established in the IT and electronics sectors.

Not all appliances and equipment are created equal when it comes to energy consumption. For the same service provided, a good appliance easily consumes twice as much energy as a mid-range appliance. This is the case for refrigerators, coffee machines, vacuum cleaners, lamps, etc. If we compare the extremes, i.e. the best with the worst, this ratio can range from 1 to 10. This is the factor that exists, for example, between a building meeting the Minergie® A standard and a building built in the 1970s; the latter consumes ten times more energy per square metre.

The energy label provides a quality certificate and informs buyers about energy-efficient products. Its aim is to encourage consumers to choose the most efficient products on the one hand, and suppliers to offer quality products on the other.

Introduced by the European Union in 1996, the energy label was made compulsory in Switzerland in 2002 for various household appliances, including refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines, tumble dryers and light bulbs. In subsequent years it was extended to other categories of appliances, including ovens (2004), air-conditioners (2006), televisions (2012) and coffee machines (2014). Energy labelling is not just an incentive. Since 2009, Switzerland has introduced requirements, widely adopted from those of the European Union, which exclude the least efficient devices from the market.

Originally introduced for electrical appliances, the energy label concept was then extended to the transport sector, particularly to cars and tyres, then to sanitary products, such as taps and shower heads, which save hot water and therefore energy. Since 2009, the cantons have been offering property owners the option of having their energy label, known as the Cantonal Energy Certificate of Buildings (CECB), issued. The CECB determines the overall energy performance of the building, as well as the quality of its insulation. Although still largely voluntary, the establishment of this certificate is nevertheless made compulsory in certain cantons and under certain circumstances (public buildings, buildings seeking a subsidy for renovation, sale, etc.)

Initially, efficiency classes ranged from best (“A”) to worst (“G”). To encourage and reward technical progress, new categories “A+”, “A++” and “A+++” have been introduced for appliances that are even more efficient than Class A. Typically, an A+++ labelled refrigerator consumes about half as much energy as a model of equivalent capacity but of energy quality A. At the same time, categories E and G have disappeared. The efficiency requirements and energy labels are therefore adapted periodically, to take account of the constant improvement of the appliances.

For IT and entertainment electronics, the Energy Star label plays the role of the energy label. This is for reasons of harmonisation, since this label has existed since 1992 in the United States and was taken over by the European Union in 2002. Switzerland adopted it in 2009.

Price and brand remain the predominant criteria for the purchase of household appliances, cars, and other capital goods. However, energy efficiency is becoming more important in consumers’ decisions. The energy label has become widely known and its effectiveness has been demonstrated. As for the construction sector, the establishment of the CECB is an important incentive for energy retrofitting, particularly in setting priorities for the work.


CECB (2019)
(). Certificat energétique cantonal des bâtiments. [Online]. Available at:
European Commission (2019)
(). EU ENERGY STAR. [Online]. Available at:
(). Minergie - home. [Online]. Available at:
SuisseEnergie (2019)
(). Etiquettes-énergie. [Online]. Available at: