Why Buy an Energy Star-Qualified Washing Machine?

Written by Anita Alvarez
Updated November 9, 2013
energy efficient washing machine
Check for the Energy Star ratings when replacing your washer or dryer. (Photo by Meredith Rizzo)

Consumers in search of an energy-efficient washing machine routinely turn to the Energy Star label. Here's what you should look for when comparing appliances.

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The Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that on average homeowners spend 14 percent of their energy budgets on water-heating costs. 

In order to save on you energy bill when upgrading your washing machine, explore the value that Energy Star-rated models offer. As a perk, washing machines that qualify for the coveted blue label also use less water.

What is the Energy Star Program?

The Energy Star program, developed by the DOE and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1992, was born out the need to conserve energy nationwide. In general, you can expect qualified equipment to save as much as 30 percent more than equipment that doesn't bear the seal.

Although the program is voluntary, consumer demand for energy-efficient products has led to manufacturing innovations that boost the performance of equipment across the board. And washing machines are no exception.

How Do Washing Machines Qualify?

The DOE employs two criteria, or efficiency ratings, in order for a washing machine to earn the seal:

The appliance must meet a Modified Energy Factor (MEF) of at least 2.0.The equipment's Water Factor (WF) rating must be 6.0 or less.

In contrast, the federal government's minimum ratings for standard washing machines are MEF 1. 26 and WF 9.5. So you can see how much more efficiently Energy Star-qualified washing machines rate, using less energy and water.

Energy Consumption and Water Savings

A comparison of the energy efficiency ratings provides a bird's eye view of the performance capacity of qualified washing machines. Let's review the fine print and see just how much electricity and water you can save by purchasing a more efficient washing machine.

Energy consumption. Compared to standard washing machines, the DOE estimates that qualified systems use only 270 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity, which translates to about $85 in annual operating costs. How much you'll save when investing in a high-efficiency washer depends on the operating costs of your existing system. Your plumbing professional can help you run the numbers.

Water savings. You'll not only save on electricity costs when investing in this energy-efficient appliance, but you'll also save on water, because qualified appliances tend to use much less water than older washing machines. The DOE estimates that a washing machine that qualifies for the program will use approximately 8 fewer gallons for each load. That adds up to significant savings over the course of a year.

Energy Efficient Features

Energy-efficient washing machines employ several features that enhance performance as well as convenience. Look for these features:

Automatic dispenser. Pour detergent or bleach into this dispenser, and the machine knows just when to release it during the washing cycle. Some brands will let you pour enough detergent to last a month.

Automatic temperature control. This features allows the appliance to regulate the temperature of the water, making automatic adjustments depending on the temperature of the incoming water.

Rinsing. Models that let you add an extra rinse cycle ensure the appliance completely rids the clothing of detergent, particularly useful if members of your household have skin sensitivities or allergies.

Time delay. If your utility company charges less for electricity at certain times of the day, this feature will prove useful. You can fill the machine with clothing and detergent as necessary, and then program the appliance to run at night, for instance, when rates are lower.

Average Cost of Energy Efficient Washing Machines

Energy-efficient washing machines vary in price, depending on two factors in general: size and features. A smaller unit with a 3.5 cubic feet capacity can cost $700, or even less. At the high end, machines that include features such as a steam setting, an allergen cycle that removes dust mites and dander from clothing, a vibration-reducing setting and so forth can run as high as $1,600.

The bottom line when it comes to investing in a washing machine: Do your homework. Investigate various brands and models, inquire about features and compare operating costs before you make a selection. Then you can be confident that your investment in the appliance is money well spent.

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