Source: Consumer Energy Center | California Energy Commission

Clothes Washers

Beginning in the late 1990s, American clothes washers have become much more efficient. Since the typical US household does approximately 300 loads of laundry per year, consumers can save substantial amounts of both water and energy by using a new machine. As an added plus, studies show the new machines may get clothes cleaner.

Older top-loading machines used to use 40 gallons of water to wash a full load of clothes. Today's newer standard models use 27 gallons, and more efficient Energy Star washers can use 14 gallons per wash. In addition, Energy Star appliances typically use half the electricity as standard models.

Savings can be impressive. In 2012, Energy Star claimed "Washers manufactured before 1998 are significantly less efficient than newer models. Together, these inefficient washers cost consumers $2.6 billion each year in energy and water. If every clothes washer purchased in the U.S. this year earned the ENERGY STAR, we would save 790 million kWh of electricity, 32 billion gallons of water, and 2 trillion BTUs of natural gas every year, resulting in energy bill savings of about $350 million, every year."

Standard Washers

For years the standard-designed home clothes washer loaded from the top and used an agitator to push or pull clothes through a full tub of water. Today's improved top-loaders may look much the same, but they don't waste water by filling the tub. They instead spin or flip clothes through a stream of water. Many match incoming water levels with the amount of clothes, and they rinse clothes by repeatedly spraying them with high-pressure water instead of soaking them in a full tub.

Front-Loading Washers

"Front-loading" or horizontal axis washing machines tumble clothes much like a dryer does. Clothes tumble in and out of a small pool of water at the bottom of the horizontally oriented stainless steel drum. This action is gentler on clothes than a traditional washing machine using an agitator in a full tub of water. The technology, long used for commercial washers, is being sold for residential use.

Besides using less water and energy, these front loaders - also called "High Efficiency," or "HE," washers - can also squeeze more water out of the laundry, thereby reducing drying time. New full-size machines can accommodate large items that won't fit in a normal-sized top-loader. And because both the washer and dryer load from the front, many models can be stacked on top of each other or mounted under a countertop. This feature is useful for people like apartment dwellers who might be short on space.

Combination Washers/Dryers

Long a standby in Europe and Asia, machines that combine the functions of both washing and drying clothes have been on the market for decades. They are practical for tight spaces where separate washers and dryers won't fit.

Many manufacturers market these all-in-one combo units that usually require less energy and water, often eliminate the need for venting, and create more space in your home than regular washers and dryers.

Smart Tips for Buying a Washing Machine

Consider these tips when shopping for a new washer:

Smart Tips for Using Your Washing Machine

Once you've purchased an efficient washer, consider these tips to cut the amount of energy and money you spend washing clothes:

Accessed: October 30, 2015 at

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