Second Nature's Tips for an Efficient Home Part Three: Your Washing Machine is Stealing Money from you

Improve the efficiency of your washer to save money.

In the previous two installments of this series, we’ve looked at how changing your light bulbs and sealing your home from drafts can save you hundreds on your energy bill. Now, in part three, we will be tackling a third perpetrator of high energy bills: The washing machine. We’re doing this metaphorically, of course. Nobody is literally tackling a washing machine. That would be very difficult and hurt a lot, and it would have no impact on your energy bill.

Your washing machine and its co-conspirators, the dryer and the dishwasher, drive up your energy bill with one key thing: heat. All these machines use heat, and they use a lot of it. Understanding why and what it goes to is step one in cutting down energy consumption from these appliances.

A washing machine consumes an astounding amount of energy to heat water to the requested temperature. Even if your washing machine is pulling from your hot water heater, this can cost you quite a bit of coin over the course of the year. So we’d like to introduce to you our groundbreaking new lifehack that eliminates all of the unnecessary energy use that comes with using hot water: don’t use hot water.

Most people have heard something at some point regarding energy savings and washing your clothes in cold water. What you probably don’t know is just how much energy you are saving. Roughly 90% of the energy used by a washing machine throughout a load cycle is used to warm the water. That’s a staggeringly high amount of energy use, and therefore charges on your electric bill, that can be eliminated with just the press of a button.

There are other reasons to make this simple change as well. Hot water runs colors. Cold water is not nearly as likely to turn your white shirt pink. Warm water breaks down dyes in your clothes, stripping the colors from your reds and other brights and adding that coloration to your whites if you happened to wash them together.

Make sure to use the proper detergent if you should decide to make the switch to cold water washing. Cold water detergents, such as Tide Cold Water, are specifically designed to initiate chemical reactions at lower temperatures, effectively removing the need for washing with warm or hot water.

Your dryer is costing you money as well. Unlike the washer though, there isn’t a simple switch to flip here that saves you 90%. That doesn’t mean a few easy practices can’t make your home more energy efficient. If you have the opportunity and the time, not using your dryer at all will cut down most significantly on its energy use, obviously. Got a warm sunny day? Why not use a clothesline to dry your garments? And you can air-dry clothes inside with a drying rack.

Eliminating dryer use altogether is obviously the most effective approach, but it’s rarely practical and sometimes impossible. When it’s time to turn on the dryer, consider using the fastest spin cycle available to minimize drying time. Also, consider doing it at night. Some power companies offer discounted rates for using electricity during non-peak times, and taking advantage of this is an easy way to save a couple of bucks. Just contact your power company to see if they participate in this practice.

And if you’re in the market for a new washer and dryer, you can always find a set that includes energy-saving modes and a dryer that is ENERGY STAR Certified. Front-loading machines also consume less energy because they spin faster.

Just like the washer and dryer, you can trim down energy usage from your dishwasher by targeting its use of heat. Dishwashers, believe it or not, are also serial offenders when it comes to the unnecessary use of warmth. Many of these machines use hot air to dry dishes, which unsurprisingly is one of the biggest energy draws for which they are known. Turning off this feature and allowing your dishes to air-dry is the easiest way to defeat this issue. It might take a little longer, but you can count the dollars you’re saving while you wait. Use a rinsing agent such as Jet-Dry or Cascade to avoid spots that heat drying is typically tasked with removing.

Do you have any other energy-saving tips you'd like to share? Let us know on social media. We'd love to hear from you!

Alec Lower

Content Writer

Alec is a third-year member of the team at Second Nature. He brings expert knowledge of a myriad of home air filtration topics including HVAC filters, filtration efficiency, and indoor air quality.