Energy Efficient Appliances: Washer and Dryer

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Aside from your refrigerator, your washing machine is the next biggest energy hog. It accounts for about 14% of your energy bill, mostly due to heating the water. The less water you can use, the more money you will save on your water and energy bills.

I had a 1978 Kenmore top-loader when my daughters were little. One was in diapers, and the other was outside all the time in the dirt. We were a gardening family of four creating a lot of laundry, and this huge machine suited us perfectly.

As those little girls grew up into teenagers, though, it was getting expensive to wash their clothes. Nothing could be worn twice, and they had to have vast wardrobes. Because my well water has so many minerals in it, I have to wash in warm water or nothing gets clean. Hence, my propane bill quadrupled over a few years (teen showers included), and I knew I had to take action.

Energy efficient washers save money

The pump in that old washer had died several times, and finally, instead of replacing it, I decided to buy a new washer. After much research, soul searching and number crunching, I decided on a Kenmore HE2t front-loader.

I was filling my propane tank four times a year at this point. With the new washer, that was cut in half. Literally! It was six months before I had to fill it again. A front-loading washing machine cut my energy bill in half! Being on a well, I don’t pay for water, but I know it was using 1/3 the water of my old top loader.

So there’s living proof of how an energy efficient washer can save you money and energy. If you’re on city or community water, you can save even more.

Standards for washing machines got very strict in 1994 and again in 2007. Can you see why I needed to replace my 1978 model?!

Energy efficient washers cost comparison

New high-efficiency top loaders are more efficient, cutting down on water usage and having a faster spin cycle to lessen drying time. They are less expensive, but the annual cost of operation is higher.

Front loaders are more expensive up front, but they cost less to operate and so have a lower lifetime cost. They are best for saving resources and money in the long term, and they pay for themselves with the savings. I can attest to that! I paid $1200 for my washer with a base, and it paid for itself in less than four years! I was saving more than $300 a year in fuel!

Front-loaders are also gentler on your clothes, and they come out cleaner. I was amazed how clean everything looked! A front-loader gently tosses your clothes by raising them and dropping them into the water at the bottom on the bin. Your clothes, sheets and towels will last longer this way, too, which is one more way you save!

Energy Star washing machines are required to use 11% less energy and 20% less water than the federal standards. Most, however, use 50% less energy and half the water (18-25 gallons instead of 40).

Energy efficiency labels

Even if you are looking at Energy Star washers (or any appliance!), learn to read the Energy Guide label. This will help you compare different models and see the estimated annual operating cost. Work within your budget by comparison shopping.

Adjustable water levels will let you wash small loads, saving money and resources. Check for rebates with your water company to save even more.

How to best use energy efficient washers and dryers

Once you get your new washer home, be sure to use high efficiency (HE) detergent. Always wash a full load. You don’t need as much, since it is concentrated. This is another saving! Wash clothes in cold water. When you are done with a load, leave the door open to air out the machine. A friend of mine used to close hers, and then she had a mold problem! So leave the door open.

If you use a dryer, you will be pleased to see how an efficient washer will cut down on your drying time. The spin cycles are so fast, clothes come out close to dry! It helps to buy a washer and dryer together. Be sure the dryer has a moisture sensor, so it can adjust itself. Be sure to clean the lint filter. Dryer sheets leaver a film on the lint filter, so if you use them, you will have to scrub it now and then.

My dryer is a clothesline. Because my washer spins the clothes so well, I can hang two loads a day, since they dry so fast in the sun.

I highly recommend replacing a washer that is more than 10 years old. Energy standards were tightened up in 2007, so even a 5-year-old washer could be replaced for more savings. I wish I had replaced my dinosaur sooner!

I gave way too much money to the gas company!

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Nan Fischer

Nan Fischer has been living and building green for over 35 years. Nan’s emphasis on the BuildDirect blog is about how to make your dollar stretch further, while also moving toward a more sustainable lifestyle, as well as upcoming and existing technology to help us live in an ecologically-friendly way. Nan also authors posts on the website of her seed business, sweetly seeds.