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Choose a front-loading ENERGY STAR washer

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A washing machine with an ENERGY STAR label uses 18 to 25 gallons of water and 50 percent less energy per load than a standard machine. They also extract more water from laundry, thus requiring shorter drying times. Front-loading washing machines use 40 percent less water, 50 percent less energy, and significantly less detergent than traditional top-loading washing machines. Choosing a front-loading ENERGY STAR-certified washing machine can result in considerable resource savings, as well as substantial cost savings over the lifetime of your washer.

Find It! Front-loading ENERGY STAR washing machines

Most major washing machine manufacturers offer one or more front-loading ENERGY STAR models. To find out which models and brands qualify for the ENERGY STAR label, check out ENERGY STAR's database of qualified washers.

Before you buy

Take into consideration the lifetime energy and water costs of a washer when purchasing a new one. Those that are more efficient may cost more up front, but will likely save significantly on energy and water bills in the long run. For example, the average top-loading washing machine costs $300 to $400 less than a front-loader, which range in price from $700 to $1,200. However, if the machine is used for more than a couple of years, these initial costs are generally earned back with substantial energy, water, and detergent savings.

To determine how much a washing machine will cost to operate, check out the yellow and black EnergyGuide label, which can be found hanging inside or secured to the outside of the machine. This label will outline information about how much it costs to run a particular washer for a year and how much energy it's likely to use compared to similar models. Some may even feature the ENERGY STAR logo, which indicates that they are significantly more energy efficient than other models. These labels can be compared like price tags to find the model that is most efficient.

Choosing a front-loading ENERGY STAR washer helps you go green because...

  • The ENERGY STAR label guarantees that a washing machine uses 50 percent less energy and 18 to 25 fewer gallons of water per load than conventional machines.[1]
  • Front-loading washing machines use 40 percent less water, 50 percent less energy, and significantly less detergent than traditional top-loading washing machines.[2]

Using a front-loading ENERGY STAR washer, which meets energy-efficiency standards developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Department of Energy (DOE), conserves both water and energy. About 75 percent of the energy consumption associated with fabric products like clothing and bedding comes not from their manufacture or distribution, but rather from laundering them after purchase. The energy used by a standard washing machine, not including what is needed to heat the water, is nearly 7 percent of a household's total energy consumption.[3] When it comes to water consumption, the washing machine is second only to the toilet in household water use, accounting for an average 21.7 percent of a home's total water use.[4]

ENERGY STAR washing machines

ENERGY STAR washing machine standards were updated in January 2007. Stricter guidelines are now enforced for the amount of energy and water ENERGY STAR washing machines can use. Under the new standards, if 20 percent of American households upgraded their washers to high-efficiency ENERGY STAR-qualified machines, total carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced by 3.5 million tons each year.[5] Americans saved enough energy in 2006 by using ENERGY STAR appliances to avoid the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions created by 25 million cars.[6]

Front-loading washing machines

Mechanically speaking, top-loading and front-loading washers work differently. Top-loaders, also known as vertical-axis washers, are loaded from the top into a drum with a central agitator. They work by filling the washtub almost to the top with water to cover all the clothing and then swishing the load in detergent. Front-loaders, technically named horizontal-axis washers, don't have a central agitator and are loaded through a door on the front of the machine. As a result, these machines can often accommodate loads up to 30 percent larger than conventional top-loading machines and fill the washtub only partially with water. On average, top-loading washers use 30 to 60 gallons of water per load.[7] In contrast, a front-loader uses only 16 to 25 gallons per load, which can amount to water savings of as much as 7,000 gallons a year.[8]

The process of spinning clothes on a horizontal axis consumes nearly 50 percent less energy than is required by top-loading machines.[2] In concrete terms, top-loaders use 300 to 500 watt-hours per load (not including the energy needed to heat water) versus 200 watt-hours per load for front-loaders.[9] Since front-loading washers use less water, they also require less energy to heat the water. Wash-water heating accounts for 85 to 90 percent of the electricity needed to do an average load of laundry.[2]

Additional benefits of front-loading machines

Since front-loading washers use less water, they also require less detergent per load and often get clothes cleaner than their top-loading counterparts. Front-loading machines usually require low-sudsing or high-efficiency (HE) detergents, such as those often used for cold water washing. They also achieve higher spin speeds that extract more water from laundry, minimizing energy needed to dry the laundry in the dryer. In fact, front-load washing machines generally spin at 1,000 revolutions per minute (rpm) or faster, compared to only 600 to 700 rpm achieved by top-loading machines.

Tax breaks and subsidies

Some states offer tax incentives and rebates to consumers to encourage them to purchase efficient appliances. To check which states have such a program, go to the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency.

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