Our avocado-colored washing machine is 20 or 30 years old; we inherited it years ago and it was old even then. We've been expecting it to break down for a long time, but it keeps plodding on dutifully. Still, we feel like we should replace it with a more energy-efficient and water-conserving model. Although we'll plunk down some change up front, a new washing machine will save us money on electricity and water bills But how can we tell which new ones are the best in terms of energy efficiency? Tons of products make "green" marketing claims that I've learned not to trust.
You might know about the EPA and Department of Energy's Energy Star program. The program identifies appliances that meet federal energy-efficiency standards. According to the Energy Star website, appliances with the Energy Star logo can reduce household energy consumption and greenhouse-gas emissions by 33%! The Energy Star website says this efficiency saved consumers $12 million in electricity bills in 2005 alone. That same year, the use of Energy Star products reduced the USA's greenhouse-gas emissions by an amount equivalent to 23 million cars – the same as if one car in ten were retired. Sounds pretty good.
A lot of major brands have models that qualify for the blue Energy Star logo. The Energy Star website has search engines for different products and stores that carry them.
So what about washing machines in particular?
According to these green building guidelines from California, Energy Star washing machines use 50% less energy and 45 to 60% less water, but perform as well as conventional washers. For maximum efficiency, these guidelines recommend models with a water-factor rating of 6.0 or less. Most Energy Star washing machines are front loaders. They not only wash and rinse with less water but most models have a high-speed spin cycle that removes more water than conventional models, thus saving energy on drying.
The websites listed below are helpful sources of information. For the present, before we choose a new washer, I'll keep trying to reduce our energy use by washing only full loads and by washing in cold water. And even after I get the new washer, I'll keep hanging the clothes on the line to dry. Yeah, they get bird poop on them now and then, but what the heck. The little gobs flake right off when they're dry. The trick is to bring in the clothes as soon as they're dry. The longer they stay out, the greater the chance they'll get bombarded.
See our new book, Going Green, for more information on energy-saving appliances and other environmentally-friendly consumer choices.
by Sally Kneidel, PhD
Sources and more info:
1. Going Green: A Wise Consumer's Guide to a Shrinking Planet
Sally Kneidel, PhD, and Sadie Kneidel
2. Energy Star
3. Green Building Guidelines. G. Appliances http://www.co.contra-costa.ca.us/depart/cd/recycle/gbg/Grnbldg-NewConstruction-9Chap4-2.pdf
4.Consortium for Energy Efficiency
Keywords: clothes washer clothes washing machine energy-efficiency energy-efficient appliances Energy Star energy-efficient clothes washer water-conserving clothes washer front loading