Making sound decisions

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Since late 2011, the energy labels for dishwashers, household air conditioners, refrigerating appliances, washing machines and wine storage appliances must contain information about the noise output of the product. From 29 May 2013, tumble dryers will also need to display this data, advises Intertek.

The EU energy labelling Directive for Home Appliances (92/75/EEC) was repealed and replaced by Directive 2010/30/EU which came into force on 19 June 2010.

The Directive made a sound power (acoustic noise) declaration mandatory for products where noise is a relevant criterion. Previously, communicating noise output was an ‘optional extra’ piece of information to display, but now it must be featured on the label in a form of a pictograph. Acoustic noise information will also be included in:

•        the product fiche (the supplier’s standard table of information relating to the product),
•        the technical documentation,
•        information provided where end-users cannot be expected to see the product,
•        displayed information (eg online and catalogue sales).

How is ‘acoustic noise’ measured?

The term ‘sound power’ is used when evaluating the noise output from an appliance. This differs from the term ‘sound pressure’ in that it quantifies the sound emitted by the appliance, rather than the level at a particular distance from it (rather like the power rating of a heater as opposed to the temperature at a point in the room).

Sound power has to be measured while the appliance is working at its maximum rated output. For example the sound power measurement for a washing machine is made while it washes a full load on a specific programme that includes the maximum spin speed. To ensure consistency of measurement, it has to be connected to regulated supplies of electricity and water. Ambient conditions as well as supply voltage, water temperature and pressure and similar parameters are recorded throughout the sound power test to guarantee that the test is carried out under standard conditions. All of these requirements have to be applied within the confines of a chamber specially designed and calibrated for making sound power measurements.

Retailer responsibilities

It is a retailer’s responsibility to display the energy labels and make supporting information available to consumers, at point of sale, online and in their catalogues. Most commonly, this information can be found in a product brochure (paper or electronic). If no brochure is available, the information should be included in the literature that accompanies the product. Your supplier should provide the retailer with this information. If they don’t, make sure you ask for it, as you are legally obligated to make it available to your customers.

Washer dryers, electric ovens and air conditioners, boilers, water heaters, domestic ventilation units, cooker hoods, vacuum cleaners, and gas ovens are all expected to be included in the revised labelling legislation over the coming years, so expect to see extra information on their labels in the future.

Why it matters

This requirement adds an extra selling tool to a retailer’s toolkit. Sound output is important to consumers for a number of reasons; for example, consumers with night-rate electricity might want to be sure that they won’t be disturbed by the noise when the timer switch turns on their dishwasher at 3am. People that live in flats know what it’s like to hear their neighbour’s washing machine going through a spin cycle at midnight and will be keen to ensure everyone uses quieter appliances. People who work shifts might want to make sure that an appliance won’t disturb their day-time rest. In these and similar circumstances the low noise of the appliance can be a deal clincher. A sound decision indeed.

About Intertek

Intertek is one of the largest safety, EMC, performance and energy efficiency testing laboratories in the world, working with appliance manufacturers to ensure they meet the requirements of mandatory legislation and develop products that perform well and meet consumers’ requirements.

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