An estimated 40% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions come from households. It stands to reason, then, that our appliances – and how we use them – play a big role in the quest to reduce our climate impact, not to mention their effect on our energy bills.
The washing machine is one of the most heavily used appliances in the home. A 7kg washing machine used 220 times a year will cost typically between £25 – £35 a year to run. In fact, wet appliances account for nearly 10 per cent of a typical household’s energy bills.
While there’s going to be no return to the days of the wringer, there are options to consider to cut washing expenses and emissions.
Several factors influence a washing machine’s energy consumption beyond the frequency it is used, including the machine’s energy rating. From March 2021, European energy labels will switch back to a simple A-G format, but currently the highest possible rating is A+++.
Wherever your model rates on the scale, there are some fundamental factors to consider in energy performance. Two of the main ones are wash temperature and load size.
Lower temperatures use less energy, and while there has been increased awareness of the advantages of turning to 30 degrees, the European Union’s Ecodesign initiative has made a 20 degree option compulsory on new machine models since 2013. Such temperatures are particularly worth considering when washing clothing that is not heavily soiled. There’s a helpful guide dedicated to washing at 20 degrees.
Don’t do things by half
Trying to avoid washing half loads whenever possible is another good rule of thumb, but if it’s unavoidable, you should always use the half load programme, if available.
Another option is simply not washing.
That’s not to say you should never wash your clothes at all, but there is an increasing body of evidence that suggests it’s possible to get away with washing clothes less frequently. The UK’s Waste and Resources Action Programme – or WRAP – suggests that advice to only wash when necessary, rather than after every wear, and airing garments as a means of freshening, could be included on clothing labels, packaging and at the point of purchase.
Maintain your machine
Sometimes, an appliance is so old and inefficient that the best thing to do is go out and get a new, more efficient model. However, constant replacement of equipment in your home is not the most sustainable option.
There are several ways you can get longer life out of your washing machine through better care.
The first, and perhaps most important, piece of advice is don’t overload the drum. It could cause damage, and makes the machine less efficient. Ultimately, water and detergent need to circulate, and clothes need to move around. A poor clean means there’s a likelihood of a second wash, using even more electricity. You should leave a hand’s span width at the top of the drum for better performance.
Another way to ensure continued good performance is to clean the machine’s filter every month. Doing a monthly service wash (hot, without clothes) is also very sound practise.
Emptying the pockets of clothing is also vital to prevent items getting caught in the drain pump, while avoiding putting in too much detergent is a good idea too, as it can clog the machine and prevent it working properly.
Out with the old
If you decide it’s time to make a change, it’s a good idea to consider more sustainable ways of getting rid of your old model. Recyclenow offers advice and information on recycling and reusing old white goods, including washing machines.
The energy and water efficiency of washing machines has improved dramatically in recent years thanks to Ecodesign legislation, which includes limits on the amount of energy machines can consume on standby, which is an often-overlooked factor.
Find the best of the best
Energy Saving Trust is involved in numerous strands of work aimed at establishing and highlighting the best-performing products to buy, including washing machines.
With many washers now hitting A+++, it can be difficult to decide which to invest in. The toptenuk.org site ranks all the best in class, and includes full information on water and electricity costs, as well as listings of the best retail prices currently available.
As well as looking at the size and the annual energy consumption figure on the label, we advise not buying something too big for your needs.
With sensible washing and buying choices, it’s possible to cut energy and water bills as you keep your clothes clean, while also making a contribution to a more sustainable world.
Find out more…
- see our guide to choosing home appliances
- check how to get the most out of your kitchen appliances
- find out how to apply energy efficiency principles in your new kitchen