Are you looking to get rid of your old refrigerator but want to avoid buying a new one that guzzles energy? EcoGator might be able to help your decision-making process. We took the app for a spin.
What Does EcoGator Do?
Refrigerators, lamps or TVs are big-time energy consumers among household appliances and are responsible for a large part of monthly electricity bills. With energy-efficient appliances, however, you can cut electricity consumption by up to two-thirds; something that makes our climate very happy. Each kilowatt hour of electricity saved equates to 800 grams of CO2 not being released into the atmosphere. To borrow a comparison made by the German Energy Agency, a 15 year old combined fridge and freezer unit uses around 350 kilowatt hours (kWh) per year. A new similar appliance uses about 150 kWh per year - less than half. Assuming a lifetime of 15 years, a single device can help save more than two tonnes of greenhouse gas.
This is exactly where EcoGator comes in by advising users shopping for energy-saving appliances and simplifying the search for climate-friendly, inexpensive products. The app compares the EU energy efficiency label of various devices and not only calculates the expected current consumption of the device, but also takes into account the purchase price and - depending on the device - noise, capacity, durability or water consumption. You can find out more about the EU energy label here (PDF).
Users can either scan an appliance’s energy label direct in the store to get information or scroll through the app’s extensive database and find an energy-efficient device that way. The app also offers a personalised area called “My EcoGator” in which users can find tips about energy saving at home, test their knowledge via a quiz and can request instructions for action in their home.
How User-friendly is the App?
EcoGator is easy to use. Once it’s been activated, the app takes people on a one-time tour through the menu and functions. It is intuitive and the start screen and menu in the top left enable easy direction through the various functions of the app. The design is minimal and clear.
Criticism: when going deeper into the app’s menu, for example by manually entering energy label data, you can only go back to the start screen by pressing ‘back’ multiple times.
The two most important areas are the label scanner and shopping assistant. In the latter, people can look through categories like household appliances, TV and lamps to find information on various devices and compare them with similar gadgets.
Does the Information Fit to Your Region?
One thing I was happy to note is that the app is available in many European languages and can be used in multiple EU countries. However, it’s possible that local producers in some European member states are not included.
The comparison of various appliances is quite revealing and really informative. However, manually inputting data when the scanner doesn’t work or an appliance is not found in the database can be tiresome.
Is the Content Up-to-date?
The app’s database is extensive but I happened upon several manufacturers in field trials that were not listed in the app database and were not selectable in the manual input.
Information about household appliances (refrigerators, washing machines, dishwashers) is plentiful and detailed and I am able to find all the usual manufacturers without a problem. Expanding the database to include power-intensive appliances such as stoves, computers and printers would also be good.
Is Their Advice Trustworthy?
The app’s data is trustworthy insofar as the information is based on the manufacturer's specifications as part of the EU energy efficiency label. The app calculates the use of appliances over various years, incorporates price and lifespan into the results and presents a comparison of different appliances. Many devices are already recorded in the database and, using the label scanner, the devices can be easily and quickly detected. Should the scanner not recognise the label, users can manually input data. The app’s website makes clear that it draws its information from independent research from non-profit TopTen.eu as well as data from the Energy Savings Trust.
EcoGator currently calculates consumption with a price of 29 cents per kilowatt hour. You can personalise the price in the app’s settings so that it takes into account variables such as when users have solar panels on their roofs that deliver a free source of energy.
The app is part of the myEconavigator campaign, a component of the Intelligent Energy Europe programme, with 12 project partners from Austria, Italy, Greece, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Spain, France, Belgium, Poland, Germany as well as some EU-wide organisations.
In the Time You Used It, Did the App Update Regularly?
According to Google Play, the app was last updated on 23 October 2015. The app operators indicate that they added 1,000 products in July 2016 to the database that the app relies upon. During my test period in July 2016, the app lacked some manufacturers, for example, in the TV category.
Any Additional Features Worth Mentioning?
The app takes a playful approach and uses challenges and a quiz to show how to save energy at home. The user can earn points from various actions (such as installing motion sensors instead of light switches in your hallway, an aerator on taps or answering quiz questions correctly) to “green up” their profile. Users with a minimum number of points can also take part in games.
The list of appliances can also be downloaded and used offline when users have no internet access.
The scanner mostly did not work for me. Apparently the reader has problems with the plastic pockets that the labels are placed in. As this is usually the case, the main point of referring to the app was useless for me and I often had to often resort to entering data manually, which was somewhat tedious. The problem could also have been my camera, which the scanner relies upon.
EcoGator is definitely a useful tool to have to find out the energy consumption of appliances quickly and without much fuss. The limited focus on relatively few household appliances means that the app is only interesting, for me, if I were to buy something new. It is worth noting that calculations in the app show differences in consumption, even by A +++ devices.
If you are looking to make a split from an energy guzzling appliance and need some advice about buying a new replacement, you can download the EcoGator app for Android here and for iOS here.
Want to find out more? Information and ratings for loads more categories and devices can be found via TopTen.eu.
This article is part of our RESET Special on sustainable consumption. You can find all the articles in the series here.