Greener Washdays Ahead

Clothes washer

In the years ahead, new clothes washers and dishwashers sold throughout the US will be dramatically more energy- and water-efficient, and that’s great news for consumers.  Today’s announcement of new efficiency standards by the Department of Energy (see here for clothes washers; see here for dishwashers) will mean that appliances from all ends of the spectrum, from budget machines to stylish, high-end models, will reduce wasted energy and water while continuing to wash clothes and dishes just as well. 

Under an agreement negotiated by the appliance manufacturers, consumer advocates, NRDC, and other efficiency advocates two years ago, minimum efficiency standards for new residential clothes washers will increase in two stages, in 2015 and 2018.  By 2018, new top-loading washers will be as efficient as today’s front-loaders, and by 2015 new front-loaders will be even more efficient than today.  Models already exist that meet these levels and, in fact, the top 10 front and top-loading models in the 2012 Consumer Reports Buyer’s Guide already meet the 2018 standards.

New efficiency standards for dishwashers offer more modest improvement, reducing energy use 14% and water use 23% compared to current standards, but take effect one year from today.  More than 300 models that meet or exceed these new standards are already available from 30 different brands.

The new federal standards, which were proposed by the manufacturers themselves in 2010, will preserve the performance levels and features that are familiar to American families.  High efficiency washers win praise from consumers for cleanability and gentleness, even as utility bill savings provide an added bonus. 

The savings will be especially dramatic regarding water use.  Clothes washing typically accounts for up to 20% of the indoor water use in single-family homes.  A top-loader meeting the new efficiency standards in 2018 will use about half the water used by most top-loaders in operation today.  By 2030, the annual water savings from today’s clothes washer standards will equate to the water used by about 3 million people today.  Dishwasher standards will increase these water savings by an additional 5%. 

Today’s action by the Department of Energy will save money for consumers and communities nationwide, and reduce the pressure on rivers, lakes, estuaries, groundwater tables, and our water and wastewater infrastructure in all 50 states.

These new standards are a great way for American families to clean up.

My colleague, Meg Waltner, has more to say about the energy saving benefits of these new standards here.