The Dirt on Energy-efficient Laundry

ENERGY STAR-qualified clothes washers use half the amount of water of standard washers, saving between 8,000 – 11,000 gallons of water per year. They are also cheaper to operate and use up to 30 percent less energy than standard models.

If your washer is over 10 years old, replacing it with a new ENERGY STAR-qualified clothes washer can save you up to $135/year on your energy bill according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Technical innovations of ENERGY STAR® clothes washers will provide you not only with money and energy savings, but also with superior performance:

Significant reduction in energy and hot water use. Using an ENERGY STAR-qualified clothes washer means you will use 17 fewer gallons of water every time you wash a load of laundry. Simply choosing to purchase a brand new ENERGY STAR® model over a brand new conventional model will save you an average of $50 a year on your utility bills according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Long live your clothes. ENERGY STAR-qualified clothes washers are available in either front-load or redesigned top-load models. Most ENERGY STAR® clothes washers do not have a central agitator. Instead of twisting and pulling clothes around a turning agitator, front-load and advanced top-load clothes washers use sophisticated wash systems to gently flip and spin clothes through a reduced stream of water. Your clothes will experience less wear and tear and have fewer wrinkles.

What’s with all that dryer lint? Dryer lint is an indication of the amount of damage being done to your clothes by your conventional clothes washer. Switch to an ENERGY STAR® model clothes washer which can safely clean even silk, wool and other hand-washables.

High spin speeds. Efficient motors spin clothes two to three times faster during the spin cycle to extract more water. Less moisture in the clothes means less time and energy in the dryer.

Larger capacity: Wash more in less time. Without a bulky agitator, there is more usable space in the washer for laundry, especially larger items like comforters. More capacity means fewer loads of laundry each week. What will you do with your extra time?

Buyer's Guide for Clothes Washers

What you should know before buying a clothes washer:

Ask for an ENERGY STAR® model. When buying a clothes washer from a retailer, request an ENERGY STAR-qualified model to ensure that you will realize the greatest savings.

Check the yellow Energy Guide label. Use this label to determine the model’s energy use, compare the energy use of similar models, and estimate annual operating costs. How to Use the Energy Guide Label.

Look for a clothes washer with a high MEF. The system of calculating the efficiency of an ENERGY STAR® clothes washer is called the Modified Energy Factor (MEF). The MEF can be seen on the required yellow Energy Guide Label on the machine.

This system of calculating the machine’s efficiency is preferable because it looks at the whole process of cleaning your clothes, including the energy used by the dryer, rather than only what the washer does. The higher the MEF, the more efficient the clothes washer will be.

Look for a clothes washer with a low WF. The Water Factor (WF) refers to the number of gallons of water used per cycle, per cubic foot, the amount of water the clothes washer uses. The lower the WF, the better.

Importance of recycling your old clothes washer. It is important to have your old clothes washer recycled at the end of its life to prevent it from being sent to a landfill.

Many appliance retailers will pick up and recycle your old clothes washer when you purchase a new model. Some local recycling centers and transfer stations will provide recycling services as well.

Energy-saving Tips

Follow these helpful guidelines to boost your energy savings to the max.

Wash in cold water. Water heating consumes about 90 percent of the energy it takes to operate a clothes washer. Unless you’re dealing with oily stains, washing in cold water will generally do a good job of cleaning. Switching your temperature setting from hot to warm can cut energy use in half.

Fill it up. Clothes washers use about the same amount of energy regardless of the size of the load, so run full loads whenever possible. Be careful not to overload, however. Both overloading and underloading waste energy and decrease the efficiency of your washer.

Always use HE (high-efficiency) detergent. Front-loading clothes washers are designed to use high-efficiency detergent. Using regular detergent creates too many suds, which will affect the machine’s washing and rinsing performance. Over time, it can lead to odors and mechanical problems.

Dry your clothes on a clothesline as often as possible. Use a drying rack or hang clothes outside. Where and when possible, air-drying clothes instead of using a dryer not only saves energy, but also helps them last longer.

Avoid the sanitary cycle. This super hot cycle, available on some models, uses significantly more energy. Only use it when absolutely necessary.

Activate the high spin speed option. If your clothes washer has spin options, choose a high spin speed or the extended spin option to reduce the amount of remaining moisture in your clothes after washing. This decreases the amount of time it takes to dry your clothes.

Leave the door open after use. Front-loading washers use airtight seals to prevent water from leaking while the machine is in use. When the machine is not in use, this seal can trap moisture in the machine and lead to mold. Leave the door ajar for an hour or two after use to allow moisture to evaporate. Make sure children do not climb into the machine while the door is open.

Rinse the washer every month. Some manufacturers recommend rinsing the washer each month by running a normal cycle with 1 cup of bleach to help reduce the risk of mold or mildew buildup. Consult the product owner’s manual before attempting.

Information in this article is courtesy of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). For more information, visit