When you think of low-water washing machines, you may think of front load machines only. But that's not the case. Though there are more front load washers in the HE category, top loaders are also available.
Each type of machine has its advantages. And each has its drawbacks. Front loaders tend to use less water overall and because the drum tumbles to clean, are typically gentler on clothes. But some HE top loaders, such as the Maytag Bravos, have a specially designed agitator and a stainless steel basket that are also easy on clothes. Door seals on front loaders are something you must consider as a possible point of failure. The seals also can smell musty after continuously getting wet. Top loaders tend to be cheaper than front loaders, but expect to pay as much for a high-end top loader as you would for a high-end front loader. For example, the Maytag Bravos costs around $900 whereas a conventional top loader can be found for less than $300. The Consumer Search top-rated front loaders run about the same price as HE top-loaders but in general are more energy efficient.
Low-water HE washing machines use special detergents. If you shop around a little, you'll find them comparable in price to standard detergents. You can distinguish them by the HE logo and the fact that they're always liquid. Powder detergents don't work in HE machines.
You will spend more money initially on a low-water or HE washing machine but it's worth it in the long run. A low-water, Energy Star washing machine can save a family up to $30 a year in water costs. Over a 10-year life span, that's $300. And if you take into account the average monthly savings on your energy bill, roughly $25 per month, that's a total of $55 per month of savings. Even if it wasn't just about money, HE machines make sense because you'll conserve natural resources along the way. That alone is worth it.