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Reduce Utility Bills With A Good Washing Machine

Updated on December 13, 2017
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With a Master's in sustainable development, Susette helps Southern California water agencies carry out their water conservation projects.

Nowadays, with fresh water becoming scarce, energy costs shooting up, and population levels booming, there is a great need to use less energy and water with everything we do, including the way we wash clothes. This applies to all laundry users––hotels and resorts, hospitals, laundromats, and home laundries alike.

Manufacturers have responded to the need by designing more efficient clothes washers and dryers.

Governments have responded by devising stricter manufacturing standards and labels (EnergyStar) and by passing laws that require the phasing out of inefficient appliances sold by stores.

Water and energy suppliers have responded by educating the public and by encouraging purchases via rebates and, in some cases, free installations. How will you respond?

Mechanical washing machines relieved the homemaker from washing clothes by hand, saving her water, energy, and time. Washing machines using the newest technologies save even more.
Mechanical washing machines relieved the homemaker from washing clothes by hand, saving her water, energy, and time. Washing machines using the newest technologies save even more. | Source

Low Flow Washing Machines Save Money

The sooner you switch to a low flow washing machine, the sooner you'll start saving money. You'll save on water bills, energy bills, and sewer bills (if billed by amount of water used).

Utility rates are going up all across the country, so retrofitting now will save you the higher rates on water and energy you would use otherwise. Incentives like rebates and installations are available now from energy and water suppliers, but won't be in the future. And just as good, your linens and clothes will start lasting longer as soon as you treat them better in the way you wash and dry. Be sure to look for machines with the Energy Star label.

U.S. Energy Star Labels stack up to mean energy savings, with money often saved too.
U.S. Energy Star Labels stack up to mean energy savings, with money often saved too. | Source

Top Loading Washing Machines

In the United States you can find both top loading and front loading machines, although the energy efficient top loading machines seem to be more prevalent. One of the main factors that buyers use to choose between machines is shape and how well it fits into the space available.

If you have more room horizontally than vertically (like under a cupboard or clothes hanging bar) and the laundry room is narrow, you'll want a top loader. You can set the washer and dryer side by side and, since they open up, they won't use valuable aisle space when you open the door. A top loading washing machine also lets you open the door to drop clothes in during the laundry cycle, if you forgot something.

Laundromats in U.S. provide both top loading machines and front loaders.
Laundromats in U.S. provide both top loading machines and front loaders. | Source

Front Loading Washing Machines

Front loading machines have a smaller footprint overall. They use more space in front to open the door, but dryers can be stacked on top of the machine (or underneath), instead of using space on the side. On the other hand, if you don't have vertical space, but have plenty of walking space in front and counters with room beneath, you can place them side by side under the counter.

Both top loading and front loading machines that are energy efficient can save up to 30% of electricity and 55% of water, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The front loader has a little more clothes room than does the top loader.

Front loaders fit more clothes, but the door also sticks out into the walking space when open and, once the machine has started, you can't open it to throw in another piece of clothing without spilling water onto the floor.
Front loaders fit more clothes, but the door also sticks out into the walking space when open and, once the machine has started, you can't open it to throw in another piece of clothing without spilling water onto the floor. | Source

How Do Washing Machines Save Water?

With the older, top loading machines you push your clothes down into a cylindrical drum, fitting them around an agitator that swishes back and forth to mix water, soap, and clothes. The agitator can be set at different speeds for different types of laundry. When water drains from the drum, it drains out the sides, which leaves a little water on the bottom and the clothes somewhat wet.

The newer top loaders have no agitator. They moisten the clothes by shooting water up through them as the drum spins. Having no agitator leaves more room for clothes. Having the lid on top means you can drop forgotten pieces of clothing into the machine after the cycle has started.

This is the kind of top loading machine with an agitator that my apartment complex used in its laundry room.
This is the kind of top loading machine with an agitator that my apartment complex used in its laundry room. | Source

With energy-efficient front loading machines you put your clothes inside a cylindrical drum that turns. The drum tumbles the clothes and water top to bottom, round and round, so they mix together well. Because the clothes are tumbled, rather than soaked, this method needs less water than the agitator type. It also needs a really tight seal on the door to stop water from leaking out.

When the water drains, it drains down through holes in the bottom, helped by gravity, so clothes end up drier after the spin cycle than they do with the older machines. And since there is more room without the agitator you can wash more clothes at once. Once you've started the cycle, though, you can't open the door to add more clothes without water spilling all over the floor.

A more modern drum used in a front loader washing machine.
A more modern drum used in a front loader washing machine. | Source

How Do Washing Machines Save Energy?

In the older top-loaders, the agitator and outer drum are driven by a heavy electrical gearbox and its related parts, which uses energy and is absent in the front-loader. Water is also recirculated from the bottom of the washer to the top using an electric pump, which is not necessary in a front-loader. These differences result in a savings of electricity, which may or may not be offset by other factors.

Because the front-loader uses less water, the energy (gas or electric) that would have heated that water can be substantial––like up to 90%––if you wash with cold water too. In addition, clothes end up drier after the front-loader spin cycle, so they take less time in a dryer to finish the job. This saves even more electricity, and wear and tear on the clothes as well.

The EPA estimates an overall savings of 30% in energy with the newer machines. Although many manurfacturers do not post the amount of electricity used, many are now starting to, now that customers are looking for that information. Check the machine to see if there is a bright gold energy-saving sticker and use it to compare efficiency.

Look carefully at the Energy Guide label to see how much electricity an appliance uses.  Although this label shows energy for water heaters, you'll see a similar one on many washing machines and can use it to compare.
Look carefully at the Energy Guide label to see how much electricity an appliance uses. Although this label shows energy for water heaters, you'll see a similar one on many washing machines and can use it to compare. | Source

Comparison of Top and Front Loading Washing Machines

 
Top Loader
Front Loader
Needs extra room for the door.
Above the machine
In front of the machine
Can stack dryer on top or underneath.
No
Yes
Can add clothes while the wash cycle is going.
Yes
No
 
 
 

Change Habits to Save on Utility Bills

Sometimes you can save as much money by changing laundry habits as you can by buying a more efficient machine. Here are some tips for doing that:

  1. Wash only full loads to maximize the use of water and energy. Depending on how you have washed in the past, you could save two or three loads a week this way.
  2. In areas where higher rates are charged during peak demand times, wash early in the morning or later at night, when businesses are closed and less energy is being used city-wide.

  3. Use hot water for heavily soiled loads only, and cool water for the rest. This saves heating costs. (If you add 1/4 cup of baking soda to the white wash, it will help your machine and clothes smell fresh.)

  4. Hang laundry to dry from a clothesline outside, instead of using an electric or gas clothes dryer. Your clothes may be a little stiff at first, but they'll also smell incredibly fresh. It will also save wear and tear in the long run, since your clothes are not being pushed against each other as the dryer tumbles.

Rebates and Free Installations

When you're ready to purchase a new washer and dryer, first check with your water and energy providers to see if they offer rebates to help with costs. Pull out your energy and water bills or go online to their websites. By looking at the website and/or contacting someone via phone or email you can find out the following information:

  • What kinds of incentive programs they offer (rebates or free installations) to purchase energy efficient equipment.

  • What's required for you to apply for a rebate or free installation.

  • Whether or not they'll be raising energy or water rates soon and by how much. (This will help you choose when to purchase.)

  • Whether sewer charges are a fixed monthly rate or vary by the amount of water used. If they vary, then you will save money on energy, water, and sewer charges by purchasing a new machine.

  • Basic savings information, like how much electricity or water can be saved by switching out your washer.

  • Other types of incentives they offer for other types of retrofits.

Here is an example of rebates offered: MWD Washing Machine Rebate

Comments

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    • watergeek profile imageAUTHOR

      watergeek 

      7 years ago from Pasadena CA

      Nice Whitton. I like to see people being proactive about saving water and energy. (And thanks for the compliment.)

    • whitton profile image

      whitton 

      7 years ago

      Great Hub. We have a low-flow washing machine and we love it!

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