The Commerce Department said yesterday it is planning a small experimental program to put labels on home appliances and other products to tell consumers how well they work.

Under the one-year, $300,000 program, the department will select one to three products for testing by manufacturers who choose to participate. The test results will appear on a product's label, which will have a special Commerce Department logo.

These tests might indicate a product's load capacity, energy use, noise level, strength or durability. The labels would be written in language consumers can understand, according to a Commerce Department spokesman.

If a vacuum cleaner is chosen for testing, for example, the lable could state the suction power, how quickly it picks up dust or fibers, how much the dust bag holds, reach from electrical outlets to nozzle, how loud the machine is and to what extent it can reach under furniture.

Esther Peterson, President Carter's special assistant for consumer affairs, said at a Commerce Department press conference that the new program would "strengthen the competitive system." Manufacturers whose products test well, she said, could use the results in promoting their products, and positive test results would give them a competitive advantage.

Peterson said recent polls have shown that people are willing to pay more for products they know are good. She said manufacturers must "compete upwards" by making better quality items, and thus "talk up to the consumers rather than down.