How does design affect a washer's energy efficiency?

Front Load Washers and Energy Efficiency
Front-load designs can save energy -- and money.
Front-load designs can save energy -- and money.
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A front-load washing machine does some key things differently from a top loader. If you take a look at one, the first thing you'll notice is that it doesn't have an agitator. Instead of beating the clothes back and forth in water, it rotates them up out of the water. Gravity causes them to drop back down into the slurry. This washer design mimics the action of an agitator with one big key benefit. You don't need nearly as much water to complete the process. This method of agitation generates plenty of dwell time in water and in some cases only requires half water volume of a standard top-load washer. Water savings isn't the only benefit, either. Half the water means half the energy required to heat it, spin it around and remove it later.

Front load washers can also typically handle larger loads. Where an old style top-loading washing machine can wash between 12 and 16 pounds (5.44 to 7.25 kilograms) of laundry per load, front load styles can handle up to 20-pound (9-kilogram) loads. That means half the water usage and larger washing capacity.

Front-load washer design energy efficiency isn't limited to reduced water consumption and larger load capacity. Many front loaders are very efficient when it comes to spinning residual water out of clothes, too. Removing more water than standard top-loading machines means less drying time and savings on the drying side of the process as well. Next generation washers have also made the switch to more energy efficient direct drive systems that still generate adequate speed and torque, but do it with less power consumption. As an extra bonus, these systems need less room for the "innards" of the machine and result in a more efficient, lightweight design.

From a design standpoint, front-load washers can be a breeze to put in place. When you don't have to worry about keeping the top of the unit clear, you can stack a washer and dryer combo in a small utility area without a major home renovation and a big appliance footprint.