Washers and Dryers

Washers

In considering the purchase of a washing machine there are several factors which are important for energy efficiency and cost savings--mainly the amount of water to be heated during its operation and the amount of water extracted during its final spin cycle.

The US Department of Energy's Energy Star Program has measured energy efficiency for washing machines and other major appliances, TVs, VCRs, heating and cooling equipment, residential light fixtures, office equipment, windows, and newly built homes. These products were tested for energy efficiency and operational cost factors. See www.energystar.gov/products for Energy Star products, retail stores selling them, and other related information.

The State of Maryland passed and signed into law in May 2000, The Maryland Clean Energy Incentive Act to promote energy efficiency through use of US Energy Star program-rated products. Beginning July 1, 2000, Energy Star clothes washers can be purchased tax free in Maryland. This initiative remains in effect until July 1, 2003. The usual higher purchase price is offset with the allowance and the savings from higher efficiency operations is another bonus. For a current list of qualifying washing machine models, see the US Energy Star web site. You may also call the Energy Star program staff and request a hard copy of qualifying models: 1-888-782-7937.

Vertical vs. Horizontal Axis Washers

Conventional washers (vertical axis with a central agitator) suspend clothes in a tub of water for the cleansing and rinsing processes. This method uses, on average, about 40 gallons of water for each load. Since each US household washes approximately one load per day, this equals nationally about 35 million loads each year and highlights the fact that clothes washers are one of the highest end-users of water in American homes.

Alternatively the horizontal axis clothes washer repeatedly tumbles (instead of the agitation process) clothes through a small pool of water in the bottom of the tub. This process reduces the amount of water needed for the cleaning process. The US Department of Energy funded a real-world testing of these machines in Bern, Kansas, population 204. After an initial two months of data gathering on participant/laundry profiles, the participants' washing machines were replaced with 103 high-efficiency horizontal-axis washers for three months to measure energy efficiency and cleaning thoroughness.

Results of this study showed an impressive decrease in both water and energy use. Using the h-axis washers, the average water use of 41.5 gallons per loan fell to 25.8 gallons, a savings of 38%. Energy use, which included washer processing and energy used for heating water fell by 58%. An additional savings was found since the moisture content of each load was lessened by approximately 7%, shortening drying time. Additionally, the study participants reported the cleaning performance of the h-axis washers was superior to their original washers.

Dryers

In terms of energy use, gas dryers are generally much less expensive to operate than electric dryers. Other than fuel type, the major energy consideration is whether the dryer senses dryness and automatically turns off, and, if so, what is the sensing mechanism.

  1. Automatic shutoff: You can save a significant amount of money by buying a dryer that senses dryness and turns off automatically. Over-drying can reduce the life of clothes, as well as waste energy. The best dryers today have moisture sensors in the drum for sensing dryness, while most only infer dryness by sensing the temperature of the exhaust air. Compared with timed drying, you can save about 10% with the temperature-sensing control, and 15% with a moisture-sensing control.
  2. Electric ignition on gas dryers: Electric ignition, rather than pilot lights, is now required for all new gas dryers.
  3. Features that reduce the need for ironing: If clothes are taken out of the dryer while still slightly damp and then hung up, they may not need ironing. Wrinkling can also be reduced with a cool-down (fluff) cycle and by a feature that tumbles the clothes periodically after the end of the cycle if the clothes are not removed right away.

Installing Washing Machines and Dryers

Try to install the washing machine as close as reasonably possible to the water heater and insulate hot water pipes leading to it to minimize heat loss through the pipes. When installing a dryer, it is important to take into consideration the exhaust system. In most cases--and always with gas dryers--the exhaust should vent to the outside, using as short and straight a section of smooth metal ducting as possible. Do not use flexible vinyl duct because it restricts air flow, can be crushed, and may not withstand high temperatures from the dryer.

Laundry Tips to Maximum Energy Savings

  • Use lower temperature settings.
  • Turn down the thermostat on your water heater. 120 degrees is adequate for most home needs. Reducing hot water temp will save energy with either hot or warm wash cycles.
  • Load the washing machine to capacity whenever possible. Just be careful not to overload. When you do not have a full load, match the water level to the size of the load.
  • If you are washing lightly soiled clothes, use the suds-saving feature if it is available on your machine. This saves the wash water to be reused in the next load. Only use this feature, though, if the second load is to be washed right away.
  • When drying, separate your clothes and dry similar types of clothes together. Different types of material require different drying times.
  • Do not over-dry clothes. It causes wrinkling and can shorten the life of a garment.
  • Do not add wet items to a load that is already partially dried.
  • Dry two or more loads in a row, taking advantage of the heat remaining from the previous load.
  • Clean the dryer filter after each use. Failing to do so will restrict air flow and decrease dryer performance.
  • Dry full loads whenever possible. Drying small loads wastes energy.
  • Check the outside dryer exhaust vent. Make sure it is clean and that the flapper in the outside hood opens and closes freely. If the flapper stays open, cold air will blow into your house through the dryer and increase heating costs. Replace the outside dryer vent hood with one that seals tightly.
  • In good weather, consider hanging clothes outside and using totally free solar energy to do the drying.

Further information can be found on the US Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network (EREN) web site.