Washers & Dryers: Focus On Efficiency

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New regulations for washers mean that you’ll save money in electricity costs. However, changes that are designed to make dryers more efficient won’t deliver significant benefits.

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We aren’t sure that anything can make laundry fun. Nonetheless, you can get excited about new federal energy-efficiency standards for all washing machines and dryers that will help to save energy, water and money.

Although the standards take effect in March 2015, we found that most models that are made in 2013 already meet them. In particular, washers that meet the new standards will use a lot less electricity than do other washer models, and you will save an average of $350 in energy costs over the life of the machine, Department of Energy says.

Manufacturers made additional changes to washers and dryers in the past 2 years that aren’t required by the new standards. New wash and dry cycles are designed to reduce the amount of electricity, water and even the time that it takes to do your laundry. Also, we aren’t surprised that manufacturers now incorporate mobile applications that allow you to control and monitor your washer and dryer via your smartphone.

STANDARD PROCEDURES. The 2015 energy-efficiency standards were agreed upon by Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), DOE, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and appliance manufacturers in July 2010 and officially announced by DOE in May 2012. What’s new in 2013 is that nearly all new washer and dryer models comply with them. (However, DOE tells Consumers Digest that noncompliant models that are manufactured before the March 7, 2015, deadline still will be allowed to be sold by retailers.) The 2015 standards require front-loading washers to reduce annual energy use by 15 percent and annual water use by 35 percent. Top-loading washers must reduce annual energy use by 33 percent and annual water use by 19 percent.

For washers, the changes that manufacturers made to meet the 2015 standards vary by manufacturer. DOE doesn’t require specific changes; it just requires performance results. None of the changes will affect the way that you use the washer. For example, manufacturers tell Consumers Digest that they incorporated features that automatically sense the weight of the laundry load, so the machine can adjust the amount of water that’s used, reduce water temperatures and generate faster rotations within a spin cycle. The faster rotations remove more water from clothing than do other spin cycles.

Based on our analysis, manufacturers converted the overwhelming majority of the affected models by early 2013. Only 13 percent of top-loading models and 72 percent of front-loading models met the standards in May 2012, DOE says. Manufacturers wouldn’t provide updated figures, but, based on our analysis of 151 existing models from nine major manufacturers, we estimate that 99 percent of models now comply with the 2015 standards.

Washers that comply with the 2015 standards cost as little as $449. You can determine whether a washer complies with the 2015 standards by checking its model number against DOE’s database at regulations.doe.gov.

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DOE says the changes that manufacturers implemented to make their existing washers compliant increase the price of those models by about 3 percent (or by $20–$60, depending on the type of washer that you buy). DOE’s requirement for lifetime energy and water savings of $350 (over 15 years) is based on an average of top-loading and front-loading models.

However, the lifetime savings could be even higher, according to Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), which is an environmental advocacy group. You can expect to save as much as $600 per year with a top-loading washer that’s 2015-compliant compared with one that isn’t, says Meg Waltner of NRDC. In such cases, energy savings will cover the price increase within 6 months, Waltner says.

For dryers, the new energy-saving features that bring models into compliance with the 2015 standards are less dramatic. Dryers must become only 5 percent more efficient to meet the 2015 standards.

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