High-efficiency washers can save homeowners money on water and electrical costs without compromising cleaning power. To help consumer make informed choices, the Consortium for Energy Efficiency updated its product list of high-efficiency washers in January 2011. Your purchase may even qualify for a rebate from your local utility company or water provider.
(For more information, check out this directory of green washer and dryer providers.)
Although high-efficiency washers may cause a mild case of sticker shock, paying a few dollars more can pay off over the long run.
Clothes-washing machines use more than 20 percent of the water inside the home. Running a conventional washing machine can use more than 50 gallons of water per cycle. Technology has emerged to replace water-guzzling clothes washers with high-efficiency models that use 50 percent less water and energy.
Some utility companies and municipalities offer rebates on the purchase of qualifying high-efficiency washers. For instance, Pacific Gas & Electric partnered with local water agencies in California to offer rebates up to $125 on qualifying models.
So what makes a washer high-efficiency?
- High-efficiency washers use a lot less water, energy and detergent to clean clothes— which means saving money, while conserving natural resources. A low-water wash cycle may use as little as 16 gallons of water, less than the 44 gallons needed to run a regular cycle on a standard machine.
- High-efficiency washers don't have an agitator. They tumble clothes in a much smaller amount of water, instead of agitating them in a full tub. That's the key to high-efficiency.
- High-efficiency washers and their matching dryers have larger capacities, so you can put more clothes into each load. And, HE washers spin at a higher speed so that clothes are less wet when you put them in the dryer. This results in less dry time, saving you time and money.
- High-efficiency washers use high-efficiency detergent as well. The specially formulated detergent goes directly to target soils and stains while requiring less water than standards laundry soaps.
High-efficiency washers have been shown to provide equal if not improved performance compared to high-volume washers. Many high-efficiency washers are front-loading configurations, which use less water and detergent than traditional vertical access models by tumbling clothes in a small pool of water. Using less water in the wash cycle requires up to 50 percent less energy needed to heat the water, and faster spin cycles mean more water is extracted from clothes, reducing the amount of time required in the dryer.
Finding a high-efficiency washer
The efficiency of a washer is designated by two measure: the Modified Energy Factor and the Water factor.
Modified Energy Factor or MEF: MEF measures energy consumption of the total laundry cycle (washing and drying). It indicates how many cubic feet of laundry can be washed and dried with one kilowatt of electricity; the higher the number, the greater the efficiency.
Water Factor or WF: WF measures the number of gallons needed for each cubic foot of laundry. A lower number indicates lower consumption and more efficient use of water.
On the CEE’s list of products, washers are assigned a tier representing their efficiency. The most efficient are tiers two and three. These typically qualify for a rebate, such as under the
For instance, to qualify for the PG&E rebate a clothes washer must have an MEF of 2.2 or greater and a WF of 4.5 or less.
Check with your local utility company to see if they offer a rebate or other incentive for purchasing a high-efficiency washer.