Washing Machines: A Shopping Guide

The laundry center is the largest energy using area in most homes, so it’s worth the extra effort to buy a highly efficient model. Doing so will help you lock in energy and water savings of more than $70 per year.

To get the best savings, look for these key features when shopping for a washing machine.

1. It’s all about time in the dryer. In the wash-dry sequence, the dryer uses a lot more energy than the washer. Reduce dryer time by having a great spin cycle on your washing machine. Look for maximum spin speeds of 1000 RPM or more, which should be available on high efficiency top-loaders or front-loaders. Many online retailers include the maximum spin speed in their specifications. Check them out:

Home Depot

2. Buy a High-Efficiency model. Get a top-loader or a front-loader, it’s your choice, but just make sure you buy a High Efficiency (HE) unit. This will save you about $50 per year.

3. Feel free to choose a top-loader. If you have a dislike of front-loaders, don’t worry. Front-loaders only save about $6 additional per year over HE top-loaders. High end HE top-loaders and front loaders have about the same price, $950 while lower-cost HE top-loaders run about $500, the same as their standard model counterparts. You don’t have to pay more to get the energy savings.

4. Buy an HE Top-Loader for a shorter wash cycle. The HE top-loaders we reviewed have 73 minute cycles on average, and the front-loades average 88 minutes. There are lots of variation across models, with a cycle time of over 100 minutes on some units. If cycle time is an issue, we suggest a subscription to Consumer Reports to get the product-specific data.

Other information to consider while shopping:

1. Buy HE if you want to wash with hot water: The standard energy-saving advice is to wash in cold water. Frankly, with the extreme energy and water savings available in HE models, the additional money saved from using a cold water wash is insignificant, about $1.50 per month. So if you want to wash in hot water, buy an HE machine.

2. Are large capacity and fewer loads better? HE washing machines have sensors or settings that will adjust water and energy to partial loads. For the washer, you might want to buy the larger capacity and have the option of large loads when you need it. (The super-large machines, above five cubic feet, are a different category; our advice applies to 5.1 cubic feet or less.) The same settings are less effective on a dryer- large capacity dryers waste energy with partial loads.

3. Steam uses more energy. ENERGY STAR calculations show that steam settings use more energy than other settings. Consumer Reports writes that steam settings are not always effective in cleaning and freshening clothes.

4. Time delays don’t save money. Very few utilities offer rates that are lower at night, and even fewer residential customers use them. So don’t spend money to get a time delay feature.

A washing machine is expected to last 11 to 14 years, so today’s purchase decision can also lock in $500 – $700 of additional energy costs. Pay attention to the energy features, and you’ll save big.


WattzOn Labs is always innovating ways to engage people to save water and energy. It showcases the WattzOn products under the WattzOn Labs private-label. We don’t market these products, but use this small-scale direct-to-consumer experience to constantly evolve and learn. Then we apply the findings to the rich, private-label products used by all our customers at WattzOn.