Current at: 22 May 2009
Water efficiency labelling standards scheme (WELS) (Nat)
The Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards scheme (WELS) was introduced in 2005 as a joint Federal and State Government initiative backed by the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005 to replace the 4A water efficiency rating system. The objective of the scheme is to encourage manufacturers to develop and market appliances and fittings that are more water efficient and to help consumers clearly identify and purchase water efficient products.
Similar to the energy efficiency star labelling scheme, the WELS scheme uses stars ratings and labelling to identify the water efficiency of the product, and its compliance with the WELS Standard. Architects, engineers and specifiers who are designing and incorporating water-using products into domestic and commercial building projects need to ensure that the products meet the WELS Standard.
As of 1 January 2008, the following products are required to display the WELS Water Rating Labels:
- clothes washing machines;
- flow controllers (not mandatory);
- toilets including toilet suites, pans, cisterns, flushing devices and combinations of these products;
- tap equipment;
The WELS Act places obligations on suppliers of water fixtures and appliances, which primarily affects manufacturers and importers, however retailers, and other suppliers such as builders, plumbers and subtrades persons may also have responsibilities.
The requirements of the WELS scheme generally only apply to the supply of new products and not to the supply of second-hand products. However, products that are imported second-hand to be supplied in Australia will be subject to the requirements.
The WELS scheme is overseen by the WELS Regulator which is part of the Federal Department of the Environment, Heritage, Water and the Arts. In addition to assisting the public in relation to the scheme, the Regulatory also deals with compliance and enforcement.
The WELS scheme requires WELS products to be WELS labeled for the purposes of supply. Supply is defined under the Act as:
a) supply for consideration; or
b) offer to supply for consideration.
When a person is making a choice about purchasing a new building of any kind, whether it is already constructed or still to be built, WELS information must be provided to allow the consumer to understand the water efficiency characteristics of the WELS products that are being supplied as part of the building. This is the stage at which a WELS Product is ‘supplied for consideration’ or ‘offered to supply for consideration’.
Is the Builder, Plumber or Trade contractor the ‘supplier’ who has to provide WELS labelling?
YES - Builders, Plumbers or Trade contractors showing a potential client who is making a choice about purchasing a display home, house and land package deal, or a design/plan are ‘suppliers’;
YES - Builders, Plumbers or Trade contractors who sell WELS appliances or fittings as part of installation or repair work are ‘suppliers’ and are required to ensure that the products are correctly labelled.
YES - Builders, Plumbers or Trade contractors who include product sales as part of tendering or offering work in building and construction projects or in building refurbishment and renovation are ‘suppliers’.
NO - Once a contract has been signed, the offer to supply has passed, so there is no legal requirement for Builders, Plumbers or Trade Contractors to further ensure WELS labels are fixed to the products at the time of, for example, handover of property.
NO - WELS products that have been bought by the customer through retail supply and provided to the Builder, Plumber or Trade Contractor for installation are the responsbility of the customer.
What are the requirements for Manufacturers?
Manufacturers and importers of products covered by the scheme must test, register and label their products in accordance with the WELS standard - AS/NZS 6400:2005 Water efficient products - Rating and labelling, which covers:
- WELS product definition and performance/rating requirements;
- product compliance requirements;
- registration requirements;
- labelling specifications - including requirements for packaging, swing tags and product displays, and publicity and product specification paperwork; and
- commencement of the scheme and specified transitional arrangements.
It is the manufacturer or their agent’s responsbility (e.g. importers in the case of imported products) to ensure that their products are correctly registered and labelled and comply with the standard. The WELS Regulation specifies circumstances in which a person other than the manufacturer of a WELS product, such as an importer, may apply for approval from the Regulator to be regarded as the manufacturer. After receiving such approval, the person may apply for registration on the manufacturer's behalf.
How to meet the labelling requirements?
Manufacturers, Importers, and retail suppliers must provide WELS labelling and under certain circumstances indicated previously the builder, plumber or subtrades person must also meet the following labelling requirements:
- The label needs to be fixed (e.g. glued) to the upper front portion of dishwashers or clothes washers. If fixing the label directly on the machine will damage the finish (e.g. permanently mark or stain finishes such as stainless steel) the label can be attached to the machine by a double-sided swing tag or single-sided non-rotating swing tag.
Plumbing & Sanitary Ware - If plumbing equipment or sanitary ware is supplied within packaging, the WELS label shall be on the packaging so that it is clearly visible from the front. If plumbing equipment or sanitary ware is displayed for sale without packaging either:
- the label, of the required minimum dimensions, must be adhered to the product, or
- a swing tag with the label, of the required minimum dimensions, on both sides shall be securely fastened to the product, or
- a label of the required minimum dimensions shall be fixed adjacent to the product such that the label and product indicates a clear and obvious connection, or
- a tag (e.g price tag) which describes the water efficiency performance of the WELS product in terms of the approved water efficiency star rating and the water consumption figure (e.g. WELS 3 Star, 9L/min) shall be fixed adjacent to the product such that the juxtaposition of the label and product indicates a clear and obvious connection.
- In display homes, as an alternative to placing complying labels on all the WELS products, it is acceptable for a builder to erect a display panel at the entry to a home with the labels for the WELS products posted on it.
Download of Labels
Where a supplier to a Builder, Plumber or Trade Contractor is required to provide WELS labelling this can be downloaded for individual products from the Department’s webpage http://www.waterrating.gov.au/publications/labels.html
More information on the WELS scheme can be found at www.waterrating.gov.au
For further information HIA members can contact HIA’s Building Services staff on 1300 650 620 or email@example.com.
If you would like to become a HIA member, contact 1300 650 620 or firstname.lastname@example.org