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Front-loading washing machines are more efficient than top-loading ones.

Photograph by Gabi Moisa/Shutterstock

Updated by James Robertson

for National Geographic

What to Look For

Energy-efficient washers can use up to 50 percent less energy and 60 percent less water than standard machines. If you have a top loader, regardless of how old it is, consider replacing it with an energy-efficient front loader. When shopping for a washing machine, look for:

  • Energy Star-rating: These machines are 37 percent more energy-efficient and use 18 to 25 gallons per load, about half what traditional washers use.

  • Water Factor: Part of the Energy Star rating, the Water Factor is a ratio of how much water is used compared to the size of the drum. For example, a machine with a 4-cubic-foot drum that uses 24 gallons per load has a water factor of 6. The figure is more accurate than gallons per load, since washers vary so much in size. The lower the number, the better. Energy Star-rated machines have water factors ranging from 3.2 to 7.9.

  • Front-loaders: Front-loading machines are, in general, more efficient than their top-loading counterparts, using 40 to 60 percent less water and 30 to 50 percent less energy. They also have the benefit of faster spin times, which means your clothes dry faster. Some local utilities offer rebates for purchasing front loaders.

  • Programmable wash cycles: Some washing machines have programmable wash cycles, which include settings for water levels and water temperature, so that you can arrange for the most efficient washing parameters.

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