How much energy does my washing machine use?

Direct Energy, November 28, 2023

4 minute read

How much energy does my washing machine use?

Direct Energy, November 28, 2023

4 minute read

An electric washing machine in your home is an indispensable convenience for many of us, especially in larger households. It beats lugging clothes back and forth to the laundromat, and it's better than heading down to the nearest stream with your washboard. But how much energy does a washing machine use? The energy consumption may be significant depending on the type of washing machine and how you use it.

Mom and son doing laundry
Mom and son doing laundry
Mom and son doing laundry

How much electricity does a washing machine use per hour?

With many appliances, the wattage alone can give you an accurate energy consumption estimate. With electric washing machines, it's not quite so simple, but we'll get to that in a moment.

Washing machine wattages range from under 300 watts per hour for the most efficient models to over 1,500 for the actual energy hogs. Your washing machine's age is significant because modern electric washing machines are more efficient overall than older models. Energy efficiency standards for electric washing machines are tightened every few years; the most recent change was enacted in 2018.

To find out how many watts your machine uses, refer to its original documentation or look for the "UL" label on the device. This may be a sticker or a metal plate, and it's usually located on the back of the machine, so you may need to move it away from the wall. If you have a model number, you may also be able to find this information by searching online.

You can roughly estimate what it costs to run your washing machine per hour by converting the machine's wattage into kilowatts. Your electricity provider bills you by kilowatt-hours (kWh), the number of kilowatts used in an hour. To convert to kilowatt-hours, divide your washer's wattage by 1,000. This is the amount of energy in kilowatts that your machine uses each hour. Check your last electric bill for your kWh rate, then multiply that figure by your machine's hourly kilowatt consumption. This puts you in the ballpark of what it costs to run your washing machine, but as you'll see, it doesn't tell the whole story.

Hot water and washer efficiency

When you run your washing machine using only cold water, the most significant electricity demand is from the motor that agitates and spins the drum. The other electrical components like pumps, automatic valves and digital control panels use only a tiny bit of energy. But when you bring hot water into the mix, the energy use skyrockets. Water heating can account for up to 90 percent of the total energy use in a hot water wash cycle, according to Energy Star.

There are 2 different ways for a washing machine to use hot water. If a hot water hookup is near the washing machine, you can connect a hose to pump in hot water directly. That means the energy consumption of doing a load of washing heavily depends on your water heater's energy efficiency.

Some electric washing machines have internal heaters, which come in handy if there is only a cold water supply in your laundry room. With these machines, your water heater isn't a factor, but the age and efficiency of your washing machine can make a big difference in the operating costs.

So, if you're focused on saving energy and money, the simplest way to make progress is to always wash in cold water. And if you do insist on washing in hot water, make it a priority to upgrade to an energy-efficient, front-loading washing machine. If you use a hot water hookup, having a well-maintained, energy-efficient water heater is also essential.

When to upgrade your washer

No 2 washing machine models are exactly alike. However, there are still 2 general rules to upgrades: newer machines are more efficient than older machines, and front-loading washers are more efficient than top-loading washers. This applies to both electrical and water efficiency.

So, if you have an older model or a top loader, how do you know when to upgrade? First, consider the recent changes in federal energy efficiency standards. Higher standards for both types of washing machines applied to appliances sold in 2015 or later, and in 2018, those standards increased again for top-loading machines. So, if you purchased a device before 2015 or a top loader before 2018, you may get a significant efficiency boost by upgrading.

However, since the average lifespan of an electric washing machine is around 10 to 15 years, it might be a little early to justify an upgrade. That is unless your washing machine has a wattage closer to 1,000 watts. Once you're in this range, the energy savings from a washing machine upgrade can go a long way toward offsetting the cost of a new machine that will be better for the environment and your clothes.

How to find an energy-efficient washing machine

Need help finding an energy-efficient washing machine? Look for the ENERGY STAR label at retail, or search the ENERGY STAR website for certified models. The ENERGY STAR website provides information about what to look for in an efficient electric washing machine, along with preferred models. The site even allows you to search for rebates based on your zip code, so you can get even more savings when you upgrade your washing machine.

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