Clean tech­nol­ogy

Mak­ing the right choice when it comes to pur­chas­ing a wash­ing ma­chine or tum­ble dryer could save you plenty - of both water and elec­tric­ity.


There was a time when get­ting your clothes clean was a rel­a­tively sim­ple af­fair. You got what­ever you could af­ford that would fit in the space in the laun­dry. Th­ese days the on­ward march of tech­nol­ogy and a new aware­ness of is­sues like water con­sump­tion and en­ergy use have given us rather more to think about. And when you’re cough­ing up any­thing from $500-$3,000 dol­lars for a wash­ing ma­chine and from $350 to ten times that for a dryer, it really pays to know what you are look­ing for.

Features to look for Wash­ing machines

Keep in mind that top load­ers are cheaper and faster, and you can sling in ex­tra wash­ing at the last minute. But they gen­er­ally cost more to run and wear out your clothes faster.

Econ­omy, cold wash cy­cles, load sens­ing or load size se­lec­tion all al­low you to en­sure you are not us­ing more water and en­ergy than re­quired. Wool­lens, del­i­cate and hand wash cy­cles are also handy to re­duce wear on more del­i­cate clothes.

Machines that spin at 1000rpm or more re­move a lot of water and cut down dry­ing time, but may crease your clothes. So ide­ally choose a ma­chine where you can se­lect spin speed. Some machines will now tum­ble or ag­i­tate to re-ar­range an un­bal­anced load. This avoids re­turn­ing later ex­pect­ing a com­pleted wash to find a ma­chine stuck half way through the job.


There are three ba­sic types of clothes dryer: the ‘vented’ ones that work like a big hair dryer in a box, ‘con­dens­ing’ models that use a heat ex­changer to re­move the water and tend to heat up the room they are in, and more ex­pen­sive heat pump dry­ers that cy­cle warm air through the clothes, then cool the air in an­other part of the dryer to con­dense off the water.

Vented units tend to be the most cost-ef­fi­cient to buy and run over­all and are prob­a­bly the best choice as long as you have some­where to vent the damp air to the out­side. If you are a heavy dryer user look for models with auto-sens­ing to avoid fraz­zled clothes and wasted power.

Al­ways read the la­bel – on your ma­chine as well as your clothes

All wash­ing machines and dry­ers now have to carry an en­ergy rat­ing la­bel that gives a star rat­ing and the en­ergy con­sump­tion for the ma­chine do­ing a stan­dard cold or warm wash. When com­par­ing sim­i­lar sizes and types of wash­ing machines, the model with the most stars will be the cheap­est to run.

When com­par­ing dif­fer­ent sizes or types of dryer, for ex­am­ple a stan­dard ver­sus con­dens­ing model, ig­nore the stars and look at the an­nual en­ergy con­sump­tion num­bers. The model with the low­est en­ergy con­sump­tion will cost the least to run.

Many wash­ing machines also carry la­bels show­ing how much water they use.

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