About 80% of the energy used for washing is to heat the water. Today energy and water efficient models are available from multiple manufacturers. Horizontal washing machines offer both reduced energy and water usage. In a 1997 demonstration, the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory tested the effectiveness of high efficiency, horizontal axis washer technology. The high efficiency washers used about 38% less water and 56% less energy than standard efficiency models.

clothes washer graph
Graph from the U.S. Department of Energy

The graph above compares the typical energy use of vertical and horizontal axis washers at three efficiency levels: minimum National Appliance Energy Conservation Act of 1987 (NAECA), ENERGY STAR© washers, and industry best (U.S. Department of Energy).

One Texas city funded bulk purchasing of horizontal washing machines and passed on the savings to its customer base in addition to rebate incentives from both the electric and the gas utilities. In 2001, the 362 participants in the program achieved 47.06 kW savings and 173.8 MWh. This resulted in reducing NOx by over 522 lbs. per household.

Cities could exploit this potential energy savings by promoting bulk purchases of horizontal washing machines by local merchants so that the appliances could be offered at a lower price to consumers.

A clothes washer study described in the May 2000 Federal Energy Management Program’s Technology Installation Review contains interesting and important results for the efficiency community. The study is the first comprehensive, field-based study of efficient family-sized commercial washers. In the laundry facilities of three nearly identical barracks, metering equipment was installed. Baseline data was gathered from the conventional machines over a two-month time period in 1997, and included 1,050 wash cycles.

After the baseline metering, each laundry room was equipped with high-efficiency machines from a different manufacturer. Maytag, Alliance Laundry Systems, Staber and Whirlpool participated in the study. Metering of the high-efficiency clothes washers took place over 17 months, from February 1998 through July 1999. The study found that the four high-efficiency brands saved 0.06 kWh/load (23%) on motor and controls electricity use. Annually, the machine energy savings are 140 kWh and the hot water energy savings are 8.1 million Btu/machine. In addition, the four brands saved an average of 5.6 gallons of hot water (62%), 11.0 gallons of cold water (42%), and 16.6 gallons of total water (47%) per load. Annually, total water savings is 38,780 gallons/machine