New clothes washers can use one fifth of the energy of those of twenty years ago; but they still are energy-intensive machines.
FAQs on clothes washers
Most American and European homes have a clothes washer - used to wash about 300 loads of laundry/year.
Clothes washers use more power than dishwashers (though less than refrigerators); inefficient washing machines may consume twice the water of an efficient unit.
You can compare two clothes washers by comparing their MEF and WF.
For energy efficiency, prefer a clothes washer with a high Modified Energy Factor (MEF).
Note: The energy-efficiency of new clothes washers is measured by their Modified Energy Factor (MEF); this new rating tells us how many cubic feet of clothes are washed per kWh (kilowatt hour). So, the higher the better.
Some modern high efficient washing machines have a MEF of about 3.5, making them the best models available.
The MEF depends on various factors, namely, 1) the configuration of the washer (top-loading, front-loading...), 2) the washer spin speed, 3) the temperatures and the amount of water used in the wash and rinse cycles.
Prefer also a machine with a low Water Factor (a measure of the water use), which is directly related with the MEF.
The Samsung WF56H9100AG, for instance (an energy efficient 5.56 cubic feet front load washing machine has a WF of 2.5 (lower is better).
Horizontal-axis (front-loading…) washers are typically more energy-efficient than top-loading machines.
New top-loading machines use sprayers (instead of water agitators) to wet the clothes, which improves energy-efficient and provides water savings. But even the most energy-efficient models (there are now Energy Star top-loaders) fall short of the best. Front-loaders are more expensive, but they worth their price.
Combo clothes washers and dryer units are a poor choice from an energy-efficiency standpoint; prefer separate units.
If you have problems of space, see if you can sit a conventional dryer on top of a front loader… Or mount it on the wall.
Water is an increasingly scarce resource and new high energy-efficient washing machines can use less than 10 gallons of water per cycle - a big improvement, when compared with older models (14-25 gallons).
On the other hand, the energy-efficiency of a clothes washer is nearly directly proportional to the water it uses… A clothes washer with a low Water Factor (WF) is also an energy-efficient machine: the lower the WF, the more water and energy savings you'll get.
Water savings can be achieved through electronic controls, able to automatically adjust the amount of water to the size of the load…. Consider one of these new models, or at least a clothes machine with a low-water level option, for smaller loads.
When buying a clothes washer, prefer a unit with multiple temperature settings. The temperatures at which they work are critical for energy savings: using cold water will cost you 1/5 to 1/10 less than using hot water.
Spin speed is an important technical feature. The higher the speed, the lower the energy required for drying; thermal drying is very energy-consuming.
For high-efficient clothes washers look for models with the Most Efficient label (USA and Canada), or the Energy Star or the Energy Guide labels, or other equivalent rating…
Compare their MEF/Modified Energy Factors (the higher the best) and Water Factors (the lower the best). These "factors" depend on features like the spin speed of the machine, wash and rinse temperature options and also on the type of machines (front loading vs. top-loading)...
Many low-cost clothes washers are top-loading machines with outdated technology; prefer high-rated-qualified units, even if they are a bit more expensive.
Detergents are very important for energy savings, when using low temperature settings; try different detergents - namely enzymatic laundry detergents, especially designed for cold water - until you find the one that works best for you…
Buying an energy-efficient clothes washer is very important for energy savings. But savings depend also on the way the machine is used.
- Using cold or warm water instead of hot water, whenever possible; savings by using cold and warm water can amount to more than 50%.
- if your clothes washer has manual settings, select lower water levels for smaller loads (new clothes washers have special automatic controls to optimize the water levels);
- using full-loads as much as possible: you can cut electricity consumption by about 50% by running one large load instead of two smaller ones…