Washing machine energy use improves with a full load, as shown here
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Laundry 101

The Washing Machine Energy Use Guide: Saving Money and the Planet

Katie Overmonds
/
August 10, 2023

Today, we're diving into a topic that's not only a regular part of our lives but also holds the potential for significant energy savings and environmental impact: washing machines and their energy usage. If you're interested in learning about how to make your laundry routine more energy-efficient and sustainable (and maybe even a bit more fun?) read on, my friend!

Let's start with a quick refresher on washing machines. These household heroes have come a long way from their manual predecessors. Modern washing machines are designed to make our lives easier by automating the process of cleaning our clothes with various settings, including temperature controls, cycle lengths, and even smart features that adjust according to load size and fabric type. The future is now!

The 101 of washing machine energy use

How much energy do washing machines use on average?

Now, let's get to the numbers. On average, washing machines consume around 400 to 1300 watts per load, depending on the size and type of machine. Front-loading machines tend to use less energy compared to top-loading ones, as they use less water and require less power to spin.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Energy, washing machines account for about 6% of a household's total energy usage. However, this can vary based on usage habits, machine efficiency, and load size.

What does that mean in dollars? As an example, a washing machine consuming 400-1300 watts per load costs about:

  • ~$48-$150 per year in California
  • ~$36-$144 per year in New York
  • ~$18- $60 per year in Texas

How long does the average washing machine last?

A standard washing machine has a lifespan of around 10 to 14 years, but this can vary widely based on usage frequency, maintenance, and brand quality. Investing in a high-quality machine and practicing proper care can extend its lifespan. See below for some of our favorite models on the market these days!

How efficient are new washing machines?

Modern washing machines are designed with energy efficiency in mind. (Hurrah!) Many new models are equipped with Energy Star ratings, which means they meet certain energy efficiency criteria set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States. Energy-efficient models use less water and electricity while delivering equally effective cleaning results.

How much energy do washing machines use when they’re running versus when they’re off?

Surprisingly, your washing machine's energy consumption isn't limited to when it's in operation. Even when turned off, many machines still draw a small amount of energy for features like digital displays and standby modes. This is known as "phantom" or "vampire" energy consumption. To combat this, consider using a power strip, smart plug or simply unplugging your machine when it's not in use.

How often should you replace a washing machine?

Replacing your washing machine isn't something you need to do frequently. (Thank goodness, because carrying them in and out of your home is a doozy of a task!) As mentioned earlier, they have a good lifespan of around 10 to 14 years. However, if your machine starts showing signs of inefficiency, constant repairs, or energy wastage, it might be worth considering an upgrade to a more energy-efficient model. (See some of our favorites, below!)

Has the energy efficiency of washing machines improved over the past 5-10 years?

The good news is that washing machine technology has made remarkable strides in energy efficiency over the past decade. Thanks to stricter energy standards and innovative engineering, newer models use less water and electricity while still providing top-notch cleaning results.

A woman and a child fold laundry after learning about washing machine energy use.
Image source: Canva Pro

Ways to take your savings and sustainability to the next level

If you're looking to up your eco-friendly and money-saving game, here are some ideas to consider:

  • Eco-Friendly Laundry Soap: Opt for biodegradable, phosphate-free, and plant-based laundry detergents. They're better for both your clothes and the environment. (We love the laundry strips from Tru Earth!)
  • Cold Water Cycles: Most of a washing machine's energy is not from the machine itself, it’s from using a water heater to heat water. Switching to cold water cycles whenever possible can significantly reduce overall energy consumption and doesn’t affect the cleanliness of your clothes.
  • Adjusting Habits: Wait until you have a full load before starting a wash. Overloading or underloading the machine can affect its efficiency.
  • Line Drying: Have a backyard or even a small deck? Whenever weather permits, skip the dryer and opt for line drying. You can even dry clothes indoors! It's the most energy-efficient way to dry your clothes.
  • Regular Maintenance: Clean the lint filter or trap to ensure your machine runs optimally. Some machines also encourage regular “cleaning cycles” and wiping down door gaskets. Inspect the water supply hoses periodically, too. And, try to get in the habit of shutting off the water supply lines to your washing machine, if they’re accessible, to minimize the risk of a hose burst and water flooding your laundry room.

Energy efficient washing machines we love

We did a deep dive into Consumer Reports, Energy Star rankings and customer reviews across the market. Here’s a roundup of the latest and greatest energy efficient washing machines we found:

LG WM4000HWA Washing Machine

Washing machine energy use: an LG WM4000HWA Washing Machine

Cost: $798 at Home Depot

Details: This LG front-loader washing machine has:

  • Auto temp. control
  • Auto detergent dispenser
  • Auto fabric softener dispenser
  • End of cycle signal
  • Rotary dial
  • Stainless-steel tub
  • Stackable
  • Manufacturer recommends low-sudsing detergent.
  • Comes with a 1 year warranty.

LG WM3400CW Washing Machine

Washing machine energy use: an LG WM3400CW Washing Machine

Cost: $698 at Home Depot

Details: This LG front-load washing machine scored excellent overall and

  • Is Energy Star qualified
  • Auto temp. control
  • Auto detergent dispenser
  • Auto fabric softener dispenser
  • End of cycle signal
  • Rotary dial
  • Push button
  • Stainless-steel tub
  • Stackable
  • Manufacturer recommends low-sudsing detergent
  • Comes with a 1 warranty

Samsung WF50A8500AV Washing Machine

Cost: $879 at Best Buy

Details: This Samsung front-load washing machine scored excellent overall and

  • Is Energy Star qualified
  • Auto temp. control
  • Auto detergent dispenser
  • Auto fabric softener dispenser
  • End of cycle signal
  • Rotary dial
  • Stainless-steel tub
  • Stackable
  • Manufacturer recommends low-sudsing detergent
  • Comes with a 1 warranty

Electrolux EFLS627UTT Washing Machine

Cost: $800 on Amazon

Details: This Electrolux front-loader washing machine has

  • Auto temp. control
  • Auto detergent dispenser
  • Auto fabric softener dispenser
  • End of cycle signal
  • Rotary dial
  • Stainless-steel tub
  • Stackable
  • Manufacturer recommends low-sudsing detergent.
  • Comes with a 1 year warranty.

Maytag MHW6630HW Washing Machine

Cost: $848 at Home Depot

Details: This Maytag front-loader washing machine has

  • Auto temp. control
  • Auto detergent dispenser
  • Auto fabric softener dispenser
  • End of cycle signal
  • Rotary dial
  • Stainless-steel tub
  • Stackable
  • Manufacturer recommends low-sudsing detergent.
  • Comes with a 1 year warranty.

Remember, small changes in your laundry routine can make a big difference in energy savings and sustainability. By choosing an energy-efficient washing machine, adjusting your habits, and using eco-friendly products, you're not just lightening your utility bills but also contributing to a healthier planet. Happy laundering, eco-warriors and money-savers!

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