How does design affect a washer's energy efficiency?

Top Load Washers and Energy Efficiency

Before you run out and invest in a front-load washer design, high-efficiency, top-loading washers may be worth a second look. The standard top-load washer we've been talking about has undergone a makeover in recent years to bring it up to the standard of high efficiency front-load models. From direct drive systems to units that use much less water, top loaders are catching up in the energy efficiency department.

Take a look inside a new generation top loading washer and you'll discover that it doesn't have a conventional center-post agitator. It still flips or spins the clothes to get them clean, but uses less water to do it. Many models also use a high-pressure spray to soak and rinse the clothes, which cuts back on water consumption because the drum doesn't have to fill with water.

High-efficiency top loaders spin clothes at high speeds, removing more water from each load than old-style units. Load capacities are larger, too, reaching as much as 20 pounds (9 kilograms), up from 12 to 16 pounds (5.44 to 7.25 kilograms). This puts them almost on a par with front loaders. New top loaders boast efficient fuel consumption, excellent torque, lower water consumption and often a lower cost. They still have lots of user settings that customize the way a load can be washed, though. If those kitchen curtains don't need a 10-minute dunking, you can set them for a five minute wash instead. This kind of flexibility has the potential for saving water and energy as well [source: Consumer Reports].

New generation washers, either front- or top-loading, are far superior to previous technologies when it comes to washer design and energy efficiency. That's one of the reasons why the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 set aside $300 million dollars for the Energy Star rebate program implemented by the United States. It provided rebates to consumers who traded in their energy hogging appliances, including washers, for more Earth-friendly Energy Star-compliant models.

The average household generates about 400 loads of laundry each year. That's a lot of water and energy. The U.S. Department of Energy speculates that making the switch from an old style to a new generation washer could save $135 in utility costs annually [source: Energy Star].

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