Energy Standards for Washers
If it's been a while since you bought a washer, even regular models will be more efficient than your old one: U.S. Department of Energy standards for all clothes washers made or sold in the United States were raised on January 1, 2007. Look for the yellow and black EnergyGuide label, which will note the product's specifications.
The Modified Energy Factor (MEF) measures washer energy-efficiency. It is determined by dividing tub capacity by the total energy consumption per cycle (washing machine energy, water-heating energy and dryer energy). The higher the MEF, the more efficient the washing machine is. All standard-size top-loading and front-loading washers must have an MEF of 1.26 or greater.
Today's energy-efficient washing machines are effective cleaners that cost only a few hundred dollars more than their standard counterparts. If price is the overriding factor in your decision making, consider this: after four or five years, an energy-efficient washer will have paid back the extra money it cost to buy, thanks to lower utility bills. Also, some states offer rebates to consumers who buy energy-efficient or Energy Star washers.
Designed to promote efficient energy usage in homes and businesses, the Energy Star program is a joint effort of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy. To meet Energy Star guidelines, a full-size washer must have an MEF greater than or equal to 1.72.
According to program officials, Energy Star qualified washers use 50 percent less energy than a standard washer and significantly less water: about 18 to 25 gallons per load, instead of approximately 40 gallons. These washing machines also tend to extract more water from the clothing while spinning, reducing necessary dryer time.
Both top-loading and front-loading clothes washers can qualify for ENERGY STAR, although front loaders generally use less energy and water than top-loaders.
In 2007, Energy Star also started measuring water efficiency, ensuring that all washers with its label meet a Water Factor (WF) requirement of 8 or less. The WF is determined by dividing the gallons of water used per cycle by the tub capacity. The lower the WF, the less water the machine uses.
The Energy Star Web site, www.energystar.gov, offers more information about home energy efficiency, including special offers or rebates and a list of Energy Star qualified washers.
According to the American Water Works Association, clothes washers account for 20.1 percent of water used daily in a typical single-family home with no water-saving fixtures. It amounts to 15.1 gallons daily, second only to toilets, which use 20.1 gallons. A water-saving washer automatically saves energy, because about 90 percent of the energy used to wash clothes goes toward heating the water.
Energy Saving Tips
Whether or not you buy an Energy Star washer, you can save energy by:
Washing full loads
Adjusting the water level setting for small loads
Using cold water (or warm instead of hot) and cold-water detergent whenever possible
Use a high-speed or extended spin cycle to minimize dryer time