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Clothes Washer Benefits and Costs

How much does a new high-efficiency clothes washer cost?

High-efficiency washers start at about $550 and go up from there to over $1,000. Good quality standard clothes washers typically sell for $450 - $550, so the high-efficiency machines are definitely more expensive.

However, if you are in the market for a clothes washer, consider that the water, wastewater, and energy savings from a high-efficiency machine may well make up the cost difference in just a few months or years. You can use the payback calculator below to determine if a high-efficiency machine makes sense for you and your family. A higher efficiency machine will use less water and also energy when less water is heated for each warm water wash cycle. The higher the efficiency of the machine, the lower the Water Factor (measure of water used per cycle per cubic foot size of machine).

To sweeten the deal, some water and/or electric utilities now offer financial incentives for purchasing a high-efficiency washer. You can contact your water or electric utility for information about any incentive (or rebate) programs. If such a program exists in your area, the clothes washer salesperson is likely to know about it.p>

High efficiency clothes washers are now offered by almost all the leading manufacturers and should be available wherever clothes washers are sold. For a list of stores in your area, try the ENERGY STAR store locator. All you need is a zip code!

High-Efficiency Clothes Washer Dollars and Sense

The savings you will achieve with a new high-efficiency clothes washer will depend primarily on the make and model you select. If your current washer is a standard top-loading model purchased sometime in the past 30 years, it is a pretty safe bet that it uses about 40 gallons per load of clothes.

Water Costs
Clothes washers have a significant impact on water and sewer costs. The national average for water and sewer costs is estimated to be $2.84 per 1000 gallons. This brings the estimated total cost for water and sewer over the life of the clothes washer to be around $660 (based on 8 loads of clothes a week for 14 years).

Energy Costs
A standard clothes washer will cost almost $1,100 in energy to operate over its lifetime (based on 8 loads of clothes a week for 14 years, using 13,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity at an average cost of 8.6 cents per kilowatt-hour).

A typical clothes dryer will also cost $1,100 to operate over its lifetime.

The total estimated cost to operate a clothes washer over the life of the product is $1,700 plus $1,100 for the drier.

These values are estimates and your costs may be different depending upon how much you use your appliances and the cost of water, sewer, and energy in your area.

To estimate specific energy costs for your household in your area visit the ENERGYguide “home analyzer” feature.

Water and Energy Savings
A high-efficiency clothes washer saves you money on water, sewer, and energy. The energy use of clothes dryers is affected by how much moisture remains in the clothes from the washer, so the effectiveness of the spin cycle of the clothes washer is important.

A high-efficiency washer reduces water (and hence sewer) usage by about 40%. Hence the estimated operating costs over the life of the appliance will be reduced from $660 to $400 – a savings of $260.

Hot water usage in high-efficiency machines is also reduced by about 40%. Since 90% of the energy costs of running a clothes washer is for heating water and 10% is for running the electric motor the life-of-the-appliance energy costs are estimated to reduce from $1,100 to $700 – a savings of $400.

If the washer you purchase reduces moisture content in the clothes by 15%, drying time is estimated to be reduced by the same amount. This adds an additional $160 in savings.

The total estimated savings from a high-efficiency machine are then estimated to be $820 over the life of the appliance or just under $60 per year>.1 In areas with higher water, sewer, and electricity charges the annual savings may be substantially higher.

Payback Period and Life Cycle Cost
To calculate the payback period for a new high-efficiency clothes washer you must first determine the cost difference between the high-efficiency model and comparable standard machine and then divide by the estimated annual water, sewer, and energy savings.

    Payback period (years) = [(high-efficiency washer cost) – (comparable standard washer cost)] / [annual water savings (dollars) + annual sewer savings (dollars) + annual energy savings (dollars)]

For example, a high-efficiency front loading clothes washer may cost $750. A standard top loading machine with similar features may cost $480. The cost difference is then $270. If we assume a $60 annual savings, the payback period is then 270/60 = 4.5 years. A 4.5 year payback period is well within the 14 year expected life of the clothes washer so purchasing the high-efficiency washer makes sound economic sense.

Life cycle cost is simply the added cost over the life of the clothes washer of your utility bills combined to the initial cost of the washing machine. Many people simply look at the few hundred dollar cost difference initially rather than the monthly and yearly cost savings that add up over the lifetime of the washing machine. Significant savings can be seen when different models are compared based on “life cycle cost.” The Energy Guide label (see Energy Savings page) further describes the life cycle cost for each model when you are comparing in-store models.

Using Energy Guide Labels you can figure out the Life Cycle Costs of any appliance. The cost of an appliance over its expected lifetime can be computed using the annual energy cost you calculate using this formula:

Lifetime Cost of a Home Appliance=

 Purchase Price + Annual Energy x Estimated Lifetime x Discount Rate

Common assumptions may include:

  • Annual Energy from an Energy Guide Label from part 5 of the example Energy Guide Label (below) in kilowatt hours (kWh) times your local energy rate for your type of water heating energy. If more precision is desired, one can be more exact if water heating is natural gas or propane but using the efficiency of water heating for the type of water heater, efficiency of conversion to energy and cost per unit of fuel.

  • Estimated Lifetime is around 14 years on average.

  • Discount rate is the conversion to today’s dollars (same as inflation), typically about 3 or 4 percent (so use 1.04).


1Actual savings may be more or less depending upon utility costs in your area and the frequency that you use your appliances.

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