b'hard truthstars in your eyesLook around any appliance store and youll see fridges, washing machines, driers, all emblazoned with star stickers. What do they mean and are all stars created equal over time?If theres one message thats impossible to hide from right now, its the rallying cry towards energy efficiency and sustainability. In fact, its hard to get through the day without being reminded of it through some form of media or marketing. For those who have still to remove the star-rating sticker off their new appliance, its there every time a load of whites goes on or they reach for the butter. What do those stars mean, though, and who put them there?The New Zealand appliance rating programme is the brainchild of the e3a joint venture betweenNewZealandsEnergyEfficiencyandConservationAuthority(EECA)andthe Australian Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Artswhich was set up specifically to promote a sustainable future by encouraging us to change the way we think about and use energy. Legislatively, EECA is underpinned by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act 2000, which established the authority as a Crown entity.Information on the label rating system can be found at the joint NZ-Australian websitewww.energyrating.gov.au. At the centre of the EECAs mandate is the New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy. This is an action plan to promote sustainability as part of our national identity; improve the quality of life for families; and drive economic transformation in business. So, the key function of the EECA is: to encourage, promote and support energy efficiency, energy conservation and the use of renewable energy sources.One of the ways to make that happen is through energy rating labels for products and appliances. The first step was to develop a tool that would allow people to assess how much energy was being consumed by their household appliances. It was also important that the performance of one brand and model could be compared against others with similar specifications. Hence the labels.The labels are designed to help the consumer assess how much energy a particular product will use in a year of normal usage. Each star on the rating sticker stands for an increase in energy savings, with many high-scoring models featuring four or more stars.Some appliances, however, may carry more than one band of stars. For instance heat pumps/air conditioners have red and blue star bandsthe red band shows an assessment of their heating capabilities and the blue band shows their cooling performance. In the yellow box below the bands of stars, a figure shows how many kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity the appliance will typically use in a year, so this is the figure thats useful when it comes to estimating annual running costs. To get to that estimate, you simply need to multiply the number in the box by your electricity tariff, as its listed on your bill (e.g. 21c per kWh).76 words Rachel Macdonald'