Energy Saving Tips  

Energy Saving Tips

The re-emergence of H-axis clothes washers on the American market is an exciting development for consumers interested in energy savings and environmental quality. In addition to attractive energy savings, the water savings from these machines is crucial in areas where water is scarce. (Although we sometimes use the terms interchangeably, front-loading and horizontal-axis are not necessarily synonymous: Staber Industries builds a top-loading H-axis machine.)

To understand how horizontal-axis washers use so much less water and energy, consider that in a conventional top-loader the tub must be filled with water so that all the clothes are kept wet. The agitator then swirls the water around to clean the clothes. In contrast, a front-loader needs less water because the tub itself rotates, making the clothes tumble into the water.

Front-loaders have always been popular in Europe, and in the past few years European manufacturers have increased marketing their products in the U.S.

At present, horizontal-axis clothes washers are more expensive to purchase than vertical-axis washers; however, their substantial energy and water savings translates into big money savings and a quick return on your investment. Depending on your local energy and water rates and the amount of laundry you do each year, you may realize annual savings of $100 or more. If an H-axis washer cost $500 more to purchase than a conventional machine, your savings would be a tax-free return on your investment of 20%.

A growing number of energy and water utilities around the country recognize the benefits of efficient clothes washers, and are offering rebates to consumers who purchase qualifying machines. Call your energy and water utilities and ask if they provide rebates for high-efficiency clothes washers.

Almost all of the energy used by clothes washers is for heating the hot water used to wash the clothes. Only about 10 percent or less of the energy is used by the electric motor that runs the clothes washer. So, the best way to improve the efficiency of a clothes washer is to reduce the amount of water, particularly hot water that is needed to wash the clothes. Also, energy use of clothes dryers is affected by how much moisture remains in the clothes from the washer, so the effectiveness of the spin cycle of the clothes washer is important.

The efficiency of a clothes washer is measured by a term called the energy factor (EF). It is somewhat similar to the miles per gallon for a car, but in this case the measure is cubic feet of washing capacity per kilowatt-hour of electricity. The current minimum allowed energy factor rating for standard capacity clothes washers is 1.18. Energy Star products have an EF or 2.5 or higher. In the future, there will a transition to a Modified Energy Factor (MEF), which accounts for the impact of remaining moisture in clothes on the dryer energy use.

Federal law requires that EnergyGuide labels be placed on all new clothes washers. These labels are bright yellow with black lettering. When you're shopping for the best buy in a new appliance, EnergyGuide labels can save you money.

  • Locate the washing machine close to the hot water tank, if possible, to reduce the heat loss in long pipe runs. Insulate exposed pipes.
  • Keep your hot-water heater thermostat setting at 120°F. Each 10°F reduction in water temperature will cut the cost of washing clothes by up to 13%.
  • You can save considerable amounts of energy in the laundry through conservation of hot water and by using your automatic washers and dryers less often and more efficiently.
  • Wash most clothes in warm or cold water, using cold-water detergents whenever possible ; rinse in cold. You'll save energy and money. Use hot water only if absolutely necessary. Switching the washer temperature setting from hot to warm could reduce a load's energy in half.
  • Fill washers (unless they have a small-load attachment or variable water levels), but do not overload them. In general, washing one large load is more efficient than washing two small loads.
  • Don't use too much detergent. Follow the instructions on the box. Over-sudsing makes your machine work harder and use more energy.
  • Do not over-wash clothes. Delicate clothes don't need as long a wash cycle as dirty work clothes.
  • Presoak or use a soak cycle when washing heavily soiled garments. You'll avoid two washings and save energy.

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