The real cost of using your washing machine

When you’re buying a new washing machine, the purchasing price is of course a major consideration, but what about the ongoing costs? It’s easy to put out of mind, but your washing machine can potentially be a significant contributor to your electricity and water bills – costing you big time in the long run. In this article, Canstar Blue takes a look at how much your washing machine could be costing you, as well as ways to save.

How much does it cost to use a washing machine?

A washing machine will cost anywhere from 5c to 67c per load, assuming an electricity usage rate of 27.5c/kWh and a gas usage charge of 2.07c/MJ (for water heating). The cost of using a washing machine will also depend on a myriad of other factors including its type, capacity, efficiency and wash setting.

As you will see in the table below, warm water washes use considerably more electricity than cold water washes. This is especially true if your washing machine internally heats the water itself rather than drawing it from a hot water system. The energy and water efficiency ratings are also important considerations to take in.

Do the energy rating labels matter?

Most washing machines will have an energy efficiency rating between 2 stars and 5 stars, and a water rating between 3 and 5 stars. The energy rating website claims each star cuts 27% off the running cost of your washing machine. This means the more stars a washing machine has, the less it costs in electricity or gas to run.

The water rating label provides a general guide as to how much water a washing machine uses on regular wash settings. Each half-star represents a 10-litre water saving, meaning the more stars it has, the less water it uses. For example, a washing machine with a water efficiency rating of 3 stars uses 80L per regular wash, while a washing machine with 4.5 stars uses 50L per wash.

The amount of water used in each wash will vary with the washer capacity as well as the wash setting. Assuming a relatively standard rate ($2.20/KL), water will cost 0.2c per litre.

The below table sourced from Sustainability Victoria represents the estimated annual energy costs based on three loads of washing per week. Bear in mind, while these calculations include the cost of heating water, it does not include the cost of water itself. To work out how much your washing machine is costing you in water, multiply your usage rate per litre (e.g. 0.2c/L) by the number of litres used on your preferred cycle. This will usually cost an additional 8 to 20 cents per load.

 Washing machine annual cost – 3 loads per week

Wash cycle

Loading Type

Energy Star Rating

Cold only connect or Internal water heater annual energy cost

 Dual hot and cold connect annual energy cost

5 kg capacity – small

All warm  

Top

 1-star

 $75

 $29

Half warm

 $41

 $18

All cold

 $8

 $8

All warm  

Top

 new-2

 $43

 $19

Half warm

 $25

 $13

All cold

 $8

 $8

All warm  

Front

 new-2-stars

 $52

 N/A

Half warm

 $34

 N/A

All cold

 $15

 N/A

All warm  

Front

 new-3-stars

 $35

 N/A

Half warm

 $25

 N/A

All cold

 $14

 N/A

7 kg capacity – medium

All warm  

Top

 1-star

$104

$38

Half warm

$56

$23

All cold

$8

$8

All warm  

Top

 new-3-5-stars

 $40

 $18

Half warm

 $24

 $13

All cold

 $8

 $8

All warm  

Front

 new-2-stars

 $72

 N/A

Half warm

 $46

 N/A

All cold

 $20

 N/A

All warm  

Top

 new-4-5-stars

 $26

 N/A

Half warm

 $21

 N/A

All cold

 $15

 N/A

8.5 kg capacity – large

All warm  

Top

 new-1-5-stars

 $105

 $38

Half warm

 $56

 $23

All cold

 $8

 $8

All warm  

Top

 new-3-5-stars

 $48

 $20

Half warm

 $28

 $14

All cold

 $8

 $8

All warm

 

Top

 new-2-stars

$87

 N/A

Half warm

 $55

 N/A

All cold

 $23

 N/A

All warm  

Top

 new-4-5-stars

 $32

 N/A

Half warm

 $25

 N/A

All cold

 $18

 N/A

Source: Sustainability Victoria
*Assumes electricity usage rate of 27.5c/kWh and a gas usage charge of 2.07c/MJ

How to calculate washing machine running costs

The table above solved the annual cost of a washing machine when we assume it was used three times per week. Of course, some households use their washing machine more, and some less. Here is how you can approximately calculate how much your washing machine might be costing you in your circumstances.

The energy rating label on washing machines includes two numbers: one is for annual electricity usage (in kWh) for cold washes, the other for warm washes. The label assumes that a washing machine is used on regular settings, seven times per week. To work out the electricity cost of your washing machine per load, divide the number on the label by 365, and then multiply this kWh figure by your electricity usage rate. The water costs can also be worked out in a similar way as mentioned earlier. Refer to the below illustration.

Case example:

 
Electricity costs:
garry-doing-washingGarry is a stay-at-home dad with a wife and three children. Garry is responsible for doing the laundry, which amounts to five loads of washing per week.
 
Garry reads the energy rating label on their front loader washing machine and sees that it uses 420kWh per year on warm wash when it is used for seven loads per week – but Garry wants to know the cost of five loads per week.
 
To work out how much electricity this washing machine uses per wash, Garry divides the annual usage figure on the label by the number of washes it describes. Seven washes per week would mean the machine is used approximately 365 times per year. 420kWh divided by 365 is equal 1.15kWh.
 
This household has an electricity usage rate of 27.5c/kWh. Multiplying this rate by the number of kWh used per load produces the electricity cost per load. In this case, 27.5c/kWh x 1.15kWh = 31.625c.
 
Since Garry does five loads each week, the washing machine is adding $1.58/week or $20.56/quarter to the electricity bill.
 
Water costs:

Garry and his family live in South Sydney where water usage rates are $2.276 per kilolitre/0.23c per litre. The water ratings label says this washing machine uses 60L in a regular wash. That costs Garry 13.8c in water charges per load (60L x 0.23c/L) or 69c per week for 5 washes.
 
Total costs:
A load of washing in this example costs 31.625c in electricity and 13.8c in water for a total of 45.425c per load, or $2.27 per week.

How can I reduce the cost of washing?

Now that you know how much you might be spending on your washing machine, your next question is probably how you can cut these costs. Here are some simple tips:

  • If you’re buying a new washing machine, consider a front loader instead of a top loader. Front loaders use around half the amount of water.
  • Look for models with load sensing technology. The machine will adjust the amount of water it uses according to load size.
  • If machine doesn’t have load sensing technology, only wash full loads.
  • Use cold wash wherever possible. Cold wash is sufficient for lightly soiled clothes and is ideal for brightly coloured clothing. Warm or hot water will be necessary for heavily sullied clothing.
  • When buying a washing machine, ensure you choose the right size. A larger machine than necessary will cost you considerably in water and electricity.
  • Ensure you’re getting the best price on electricity. If you haven’t compared your electricity plan recently, you might be spending more than you have to on your washing machine and other electrical appliances.

Do energy efficient washing machines save you money?

It depends. Energy efficient washing machines will almost always have lower running costs than their inefficient counterparts, however they’re also usually more expensive to purchase in the first place.

In an earlier analysis by Canstar Blue, we sampled select washing machines of various energy ratings and found that the potential savings are rather circumstantial and might come down to personal preference of whether you would prefer to save money now or in the future.

For those still a little unclear on energy ratings, Canstar Blue takes a closer look here.

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