High-Efficiency Washing Machines Save You Energy, Water and Money

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Clothes must be washed, but how they are washed could save you money. Ever since the first high-efficiency washing machines hit the market and received the Energy Star label in 1997, laundry doers have been able to save energy and water every time they go to wash away the dirt and grime.

laundrySo what does high efficiency mean? A high-efficiency washing machine, known to most people as a front-loading washer, reduces water use by 40 to 60 percent and energy use by 50 to 60 percent per load, according to Energy Star and the National Geographic Green Guide.

When you're out shopping for a new machine, start by looking for the Energy Star label. The Energy Star label on the machine lets you know that it is 37 percent more efficient than a standard washer, but you also have to look for "high efficiency" in the name to get more water and energy savings. The Energy Star label just means it is at least 37 percent more efficient; it can be higher. If the washer is high-efficiency, it will say right in the name.

In the case of front-loaders versus top-loaders, more high efficiency front-loading machines exist. A few top-loading machines offer high efficiency, such as the Kenmore Elite Oasis. To find more washing machines, go to the Energy Star website and search for the specifics you are looking for in a washer.

Now there will be multiple choices out there, but look for the smallest model that fits your needs. If you have a larger family, a higher-capacity washer might be what you need, but otherwise, think about how big your washer really needs to be.

Once you have figured out what washer works for you, remember high-efficiency washing machines actually use different detergent. High efficiency detergent differs from regular detergent because it is a highly concentrated solution that doesn't create as many suds. Using normal detergent in a high efficiency machine can result in too many bubbles. This leaves clothes soapy because all of the regular soap does not rinse out.

The high-efficiency detergent can be found right next to the regular detergent. Just look for "H.E." or "high efficiency" on the label. It should also cost about the same price and offer as many loads per bottle. It is just a different soap for a different washer. All the usual detergent brands, such as Tide, Era, Dreft, All, Gain and Cheer, have a high-efficiency solution.

There are additional benefits to using cold-water detergent, which many high-efficiency brands offer. Switching to cold water for washing saves the most money, but even switching from hot to warm cuts the energy use in half. Other simple things, such as washing only full loads, can save money as well.

You can also be a do-it-yourselfer and make your own detergent. Visit our Ask Our Experts department to find out how to make your own laundry soap and how other readers do, too.

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