Clothes Washing Machines

Clothes washers and dryers are some of the highest energy users in the home. The average American family washes about 300 loads of laundry each year. Washers use lots of hot water and dryers consume lots of electricity. But washers have changed, and so have laundry detergents: you no longer have to use hot water to get clothes clean.

Washers built before 2003 are significantly less efficient than newer models. Together, these inefficient washers cost consumers $2.9 billion each year in energy and water. If you have a standard clothes washer that is over 10 years old, it’s costing you, on average, $210 a year.

Federal standards now require that washing machines use less water than previously, which saves energy if you use warm or hot water. However, the wash cycles take longer to get clothes clean. To compensate, modern washing machines have a greater tub capacity, which means you can wash fewer loads to clean the same amount of laundry.

Washing machines are available in front-load and top-load models. Front-loading washing machines clean better, use less water, and are gentler on clothes than top-loading machines. they also get clothes dryer by spinning faster. ENERGY STAR top-load models utilize new technologies that do not require the tub to fill with water. They clean using sophisticated wash systems to flip or spin clothes through a stream of water. Many have sensors to monitor incoming water levels and temperature. They also rinse clothes with repeated high-pressure spraying instead of soaking them in a full tub of water.

Modern high efficiency (HE) washers use much less water than traditional models.

Heating water consumes the most energy for laundry. Cold water washing cleans just as well as hot so save energy by washing in cold water. 

ENERGY STAR certified clothes washers use about 25% less energy and 45% less water than regular washers.

Recommended Actions:

  1. Rethink your washing habits – not everything needs to be washed after being worn briefly!
  2. Upgrade your clothes washer – Purchase a new EnergyStar model. If you have a top loader consider going to a more water efficient front loading model.
  3. Be chill with the wash. Use cold water laundry detergents – you will find that your clothes will be just as clean and you could save $50 per year.

Financial Considerations

On average, a new ENERGY STAR certified clothes washer uses 280 kWh of electricity and can save you about $45 a year on your utility bills compared to a standard model.

Environmental Benefits

If every clothes washer purchased in the U.S. was ENERGY STAR certified, we could save more than $4 billion each year and prevent more than 19 billion pounds of annual greenhouse gas emissions, equal to the emissions from more than 1.7 million vehicles.

Other Benefits or Potential Draw-backs:

A full-sized ENERGY STAR certified clothes washer uses 13 gallons of water per load, compared to the 23 gallons used by a standard machine. That’s a savings of more than 3,000 gallons of water, per year!


Q: Does cold water washing work as well as warm water? A: Yes, with modern washing machines and detergents, cold water works just as well to clean clothes as warm water.

Q: Do you need a special detergent for cold-water washing? A: There are some cold water detergents made specifically to wash clothes in cold water. Many of these contain enzymes to deal with stains, which are inactivated by hot water.

 Q. How much will I save by washing in cold water?  A: Based on the typical cost of doing laundry, the average household can save $60 or more per year by washing in cold water.


  1. Consumer Reports has a recent review on washing machines.
  2. Good Housekeeping has reviews of many detergents with information of their cold water wash performance, as does Consumer Reports.
  3. The EnergyStar website has information on the most efficient washing machines.
  4. Consumer Reports has written an article “Don’t bother using hot water to wash your laundry”
  5. Resources are available to calculate the cost of your laundry