Reduce Your Washing Machine Energy Use

Save energy and money by changing the cycles of your washing machine to more efficient options.

| October/November 1992

One of the most expensive things you do in your home is heat water. The average American household can easily eat up well over $300 per year just turning cold water into hot. The washing machine is a prime culprit. Each load requires 30 to 40 gallons of hot water. Yet, unlike dishwashers, washing machines can use cooler-temperature water with perfectly adequate results for most clothes. And if you are in the market for a new machine, there are a variety of options you can look for in your quest to save fuel—and money.

Wash and Rinse Cycle Options

Choose a washing machine that offers plenty of choices for energy-conserving wash and rinse cycles. The table below shows the average energy use for washing machines with both electric and gas-fired water heating (water temperature set at 140°F and 120°F). The dramatic differences in energy use with these different wash/rinse cycles are obvious. Warm wash cycles generally clean clothes perfectly well, and, with proper detergents and pre-soaking, cold-water washing may be fine. Note: With more oily stains, hot water may be required for satisfactory cleaning. You should experiment with the different cycle options and find one that meets your needs. (Cold-water rinses are no less effective than hot or warm rinses.)

Options to vary the cycle length have a very small effect on energy consumption, but some washing machines feature a "suds saver" option that stores the wash water from one load of lightly soiled clothes to use for the next load. A pre-soak cycle may allow you to get the same cleaning performance using a warm-water wash as you are used to getting with hot water—while using less total energy.

Cost of a Load of Laundry

Electric Water Heater - Thermostat Set at 140°F* 

kWh used: 8.3
Avg. cost per load: 66¢

kWh used: 6.3
Avg. cost per load: 50¢

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