Considering that the average household washes and dries around 400 loads a year, you want to do your homework before you shop for an energy-saving washer and dryer. Did you know for instance that the government awards the Energy Star to washers but not to dryers? That’s because dryer models vary little in energy use. That’s also why the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does “not require clothes dryers to have a yellow Energy Guide label.” Products earn the Energy Star by meeting specifications, not only for saving money but also for environmental protection.
Water Temperature Matters
Almost all the energy use of a washer comes from heating the water. One reviewer compares the per-load cost of electricity plus water heating (gas and electric), based on the settings of hot-to-cold wash and rinse. He claims that “washing your clothes in hot instead of cold for a year uses more electricity than leaving the refrigerator door open 24 hours a day for a year.”
Front-Loaders Versus Top-Loaders
While top-load washers are reputed to waste more energy, front-loaders have had their own problems. They save energy by using less water and, because they don’t have agitators, clothes tend to be drier at the end of the cycle. Quoting from Consumer Reports, the most serious complaints involved “mold buildup in the rubber gasket of the door and the resulting odor on clothes.” Another annoyance is the need to bend down to load and unload. You can buy a pedestal but that costs extra. Sample price: around $190.
You can find some top-loaders that are more efficient. The manufacturer of one eco-smart top-loader advertises that the machine uses “24% of the energy of a traditional washer.”
Your Personal Choice
Several other factors will also influence what you choose to buy: your budget, space, and the features you want.
Some manufacturers offer washer/dryer combos, priced at the high end in the $1,000 to $2,000 range. At around $1200, you can find a high efficiency front-load washer with electronic controls and steam-washing technology.
In dryers, some models feature a moisture sensor that automatically stops operation when the load is dry. One sample front-loader price: around $600 for electric and closer to $700 for a comparable gas model.
Appliances You Take With You
Average life expectancy: 14 for a top-load washer, 11 for a front-loader and, for a dryer, around 13. Of course, those numbers depend on how well you care for your laundry equipment. But the cost definitely warrants not leaving the appliances behind if you move.