The Federal Trade Commission approved a new rule last week requiring major home appliances to have clear labels informing consumers of the energy efficiency of the appliance.

The label proposed by the agency also would give estimates of the highest and lowest energy costs or efficiency ratings for all similar size and type products, allowing comparative shopping in terms of energy efficiency.

The labels would, for example, give a dollar estimate of the cost of running the appliance for a year and the cost of running the appliance at different levels of charges by utilities.

The commission voted for the label requirement "in substance," and planned final vote on a completed rule on September 30.

FCT Chairman Micheal Pertschuk called the rule "part of an energy conservation programe designed to save consumers money on the cost of operating major home appliance and to encourage the manufactures to those appliance to make their products more energy efficient.

"We are pleased that industry, consumer and government representatives all participated in shaping this important energy-conservation rule", Pertschuk said.

The rule calls for bright yellow labels with bold black print to be placed on refrigerator-freezers, freezers, dichwashers, clothes washers and water heaters. Labels disclosing an energy efficiency rating and regional cost figures will be required for room air conditioners and furnaces.

According to the FTC staff, energy use and efficiency of air conditioners vary according to geography and climate. For the reason, the FTC decided to require an alternate measure of energy consumption -- an energy efficiency rating -- rather than cost figures.

Six months after the rule goes into effects, which could be on September 30 appliance manufactures and private labelers must begin putting labels on appliances.

Violation of the labeling procedures, which might involve inaccurate labeling, could result in civil penalties of up to $100 for each violation.