Friday, August 1, 2008

Going Green: Product Review of the Week - Clothes Washers

Clothes washers have come a long way here in the US to catch up with European counterparts, front-loading washers seem to be the norm nowadays. What has helped in the process was a bit of smart policy: utilities distribute rebates on new appliances, the more energy- and water-saving the appliance, the bigger the rebate.

What to look for in a clothes washer? First off it has to wash properly, without tearing apart the clothes or ruining them -- but you knew that already. Read reviews around, get a brand with good reputation, ask a friend that owns one you'd like; it really does make a difference, some of the cheap models will force you to update your wardrobe often. On the green front, look for the energy consumption and water usage.

#1 Energy: Energy star rates washers on both, and you can find a Energy Star Clothes Washer ratings and you can compare all models in gory details. Look for the "percent better" column and choose the one with the highest percentages for the biggest energy consumption (for example, some of the Bosch models rate more than 100% better). Then check the prices and choose one you can afford, as you can see, you can get a well reputed LG for half the price of a purist's dream Miele. Search for Energy Star partners that offer rebates here or check the list and offerings at your local Home Depot, Lowe's, Best Buy or other major appliance store. Call ahead the utility and ask whether they still have money for the rebates. Compute your final cost and shop around. (You're probably aware of this, all appliances carry a yellow label like the one you see in the picture: the arrow has to be more to the left for a better machine. The table I link in the beginning of the paragraph is a better tool (and for the really compulsive, the website has excel and CSV versions).

I'm not really focusing on the electrical versus gas choice because it's not a choice for many of us; you need to get what you have in your home. If you can choose, gas is generally a cheaper option -- unless your state or utility regulates the price or energy.

#2 Water: there's less difference here on the modern front loader designs, you see in the table that 3 cubic feet front loading washers consume about 5000 gallons of water per year. If you've chosen 10 models at #1, narrow it down to the ones with the best volume/yearly water use ratio. Here's where the quality of the wash comes into play, read reviews and compare as well, don't go for minimum water consumption if the reviews are bad.

Last but not least, choose based on the producer's experience. European manufacturers are doing this for at least 40 years (yes, that's how old front loading machines are :)). Miele and Bosch are 'royalty' in Europe, Japanese and Korean makers have good experience as well -- don't know much here. Color is not that important, the machine is hidden in the laundry room anyway.

No comments: