There’s loads to think about when deciding which washing machine to buy. From price, washer type, size, spin speed or specific wash programs, there are a ton of important factors that make it difficult to just ‘go with the flow’. So, to help you dial down some of the stress, we’ve created a guide on one of the biggest aspects of appliance shopping — water efficiency.
What does the Water Rating Label mean?
The Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) Scheme provides a ratings system to help Aussies understand how water efficient their appliances really are. For washing machines, the water rating label shows how much water the specific model uses per load and the wash cycle that was used for the test.
As the test is based on the average total water consumption and rated capacity, you can easily compare the different levels of water efficiency between a variety of washing machines with your preferred wash capacity.
How water-efficient is my washing machine?
To try and answer this question, we’ve compared the purchase price and water costs of three different washing machines, with water efficiency ratings of between 3.5 and 5 stars. We’ve estimated the yearly water consumption costs for each model, on the basis that one cycle is completed per week. The prices below assume a water consumption usage rate of $2.63 per kilolitre, which is the current rate in metro Sydney in February 2020. But note this does not factor in electricity usage costs.
|Model||Water efficiency rating||Price|
|Fisher & Paykel WA7560E1 7.5kg WashSmart Eco Top Load Washing Machine||3.5 stars (uses 92L/cycle)||$949*|
|Electrolux 9kg Front Load Washer with SensorWash EWF9043BDWA||4.5 stars (uses 76L/cycle)||$1,449*|
|Bosch 8kg Front Load Washing Machine WAW28460AU||5 stars (uses 57L/cycle)||$1,599*|
Source: Respective retailers and Appliances Online, February 2020
Keep in mind that running costs vary depending on a variety of factors, such as where you live, washing machine type, capacity, wash cycle used, and whether you’re a dual hot and cold connection or a single cold-water connection.
The 3.5 star model: Fisher & Paykel WA7560E1 7.5kg WashSmart Eco Top Load Washing Machine
While the front loader has generally been recommended as the more water efficient type of washing machine, the top loader doesn’t always have to be the bad guy. If a front load washing machine is impractical, there are options like the Fisher & Paykel WA7560E1 7.5kg WashSmart Eco Top Load Washing Machine.
This Fisher & Paykel washing machine contains SmartDrive Technology, which apparently allows the top loader to sense each load, use less water and operate with less moving parts for “greater reliability”. The Eco-Active wash option is similarly said to recirculate water and detergent through your clothes in order to use less hot water when removing stains, dirt and bacteria. The 7.5kg Fisher & Paykel top loader has a maximum spin speed of 1100 RPM, and includes other features such as a delay start function. It also has both hot and cold water inlets.
But if you’re looking for a top loader, it’s worth keeping an eye on how well a model scores on energy. While Fisher & Paykel offers several washing machines with a 3.5-star water rating, a top loader with a 2.5-star energy rating, like the Fisher & Paykel 7kg WashSmart Top Load, could leave you with higher running costs than the similarly priced Fisher & Paykel 7.5kg WashSmart Top Load which has as better energy rating of 4 stars.
To fit larger loads, the Fisher & Paykel WA8560E1 8.5kg WashSmart Eco Top Load Washing Machine is alternatively available for $1,149.
- RRP: $949*
- Water rating: 3.5 stars
- Water usage per cycle: 92L
- Annual water consumption: 4,784L (one cycle per week)
- Annual water cost: $12.60 per year ($0.25 per cycle)
The 4.5 star model: Electrolux 9kg Front Load Washer with SensorWash EWF9043BDWA
Electrolux scores pretty well when it comes to water efficiency, maintaining at least a 4-star rating for all front loaders. Certain models with either SensorWash, JetSystem or Quick 15 settings have impressive 4.5-star water efficiency ratings. The Electrolux 9kg Front Load with SensorWash EWF9043BDWA is one of the top performers, alongside products like the Electrolux 7.5kg Front Load Washer with JetSystem and the Electrolux 7.5kg Front Load Washer (Quick 15 option).
Providing a maximum spin speed of 1400 RPM, this Electrolux washing machine contains Smart Sensors which supposedly detect the amount of soil and detergent in each load before adjusting the washing time to provide supposedly “optimal, energy-efficient results that reduces unnecessary wear on fabrics”. The UltraMix System is similarly said to make sure the detergent is fully dissolved before it reaches the fabrics, ultimately reducing the amount of colour fading by apparently 40% after 52 washes. The vapour option is also said to reduce wrinkles and remove up to 99% of common household allergens & germs.
- RRP: $1,449*
- Water rating: 4.5 stars
- Water usage per cycle: 76L
- Annual water consumption: 3,952L (one cycle per week)
- Annual water cost: $10.40 per year ($0.20 per cycle)
The 5 star model: Bosch 8kg Front Load Washing Machine WAW28460AU
For a washing machine that’s kind to your wallet in the long run, the Bosch 8kg Front Load Washing Machine WAW28460AU provides a five-star water efficiency rating and four-star energy rating to help cut down on running costs and reduce environmental impact.
This Bosch washing machine has a maximum spin speed of 1400 RPM and offers features like the ActiveWater Plus, a pressure and water sensor claimed to measure the washing load and adjust the water intake to help save water and keep your bills low. The VarioPerfect function is similarly said to offer several programs which allow you to clean your laundry with supposedly 50% less energy, or reduce cleaning time by 65%. Some other features include a Reload/Pause function, delay function, foam detection system, child-proof lock and the Advanced AquaSecure self-healing hose to minimise the risk of flooding.
- RRP: $1,599*
- Water rating: 5 stars
- Water usage per cycle: 57L
- Annual water consumption: 2,964L (one cycle per week)
- Annual water cost: $7.80 year ($0.14 per cycle)
How to choose a water and energy efficient washing machine
If you’re looking to save money by switching to a more efficient washing machine, here are a few tips to consider:
Get a washing machine with a higher star rating
Tossing up between two washing machines? Choosing the model with the higher number of stars will mean getting an appliance that’s more efficient and cheaper to operate. Even a one star difference can apparently help save you hundreds of dollars. For an efficient washing machine, the minimum star rating for water is 4 stars and 3.5 stars for energy.
Buy a front loader washing machine
According to Energy Australia, one of the first steps towards cutting down your water bill is to ditch the top load washing machine and opt for a front loader instead. This can apparently help you use up to 60 per cent less energy and water, and ultimately cut down on running costs.
Check load sensing technology
To avoid using more water and energy than needed, plenty of brands include load sensing technology. Similar to ‘smart sensors’ in clothes dryers. This allows your washing machine to automatically adjust the amount of water used in the cycle to suit the specific load size, and even the fabric type in some models.
Wash full loads, instead of half loads.
If your washing machine doesn’t have load sensing technology, you could try limiting ‘laundry day’ to when you have enough washing to perform a full load instead of a small load. The amount of water and energy a washing machine consumes in a single cycle is apparently similar to what’s usually needed for a full load. So, why not wash more laundry?
Try to pick a washing machine with both hot and cold water connections
Another common suggestion from experts is to look for a washing machine with both hot and cold water connections. This allows the appliance to take hot water from your water heater instead of heating it in the washing machine, which the Victorian government claims will be more cost effective if you have a gas, off-peak electric or solar water heater.
A washing machine which only allows for a cold water connection will need to rely on its own internal heating element when performing a warm wash, and this is stated to consume approximately 80% of the total energy used for the wash.
Use the cold wash cycle
If you can’t find a washing machine with both hot and cold connections, doing laundry on the cold wash cycle as often as possible has been recommended as an effective way to lower energy consumption by supposedly up to 80%.
Is it worth buying a water efficient washing machine?
Washing machines with a higher water efficiency rating typically have a higher price tag, but the ability for such models to consume less water per cycle means you’re less likely to drown in bills in the future. You can see this with the Bosch 8kg Front Load Washing Machine, a model with a 5-star water rating, and the lower rated Fisher & Paykel 7.5kg Top Load Washing Machine. While the Fisher & Paykel unit may save you a few bucks at the store, the Bosch top loader may end up being more cost-effective since it has a slightly larger capacity and uses nearly half the amount of water per cycle. Based on the models above, you could save approximately $4.80 each year (about $0.10 per cycle) by using a more efficient washing machine.
But is that really worth it? Well, no. There’s little difference between the water usage costs for each of the washing machines listed above. Compared to the least efficient unit, paying for the most efficient model will set you back $650 more in order to help you save… just $4.80 per year. And since you’ll be paying for the washing machine upfront, it would take you a whopping 135 years to actually achieve a return on your upfront investment, based on water savings alone.
So, if you’re looking to save, it’s worth considering a variety of affordable models within your budget and opting for the one with the higher water efficiency rating.
Many brands are now also adding sensor load technology and ‘eco’ programs to new washing machines, giving you a little more control over how much water you’re consuming. But saving water doesn’t mean you can’t still keep a tight grip on your wallet. Whether it’s waiting an extra couple of days to do a full load, or using the cold wash cycle option more frequently, there are always little changes that can help make a difference.
To make sure you’re buying the best washing machine to suit your home, don’t forget to compare many of the models on offer by checking our ratings and reviews.
Picture credits: Didecs / Shutterstock.com, NoonBuSin / Shutterstock.com, Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com, Evgeny Atamanenko / Shutterstock.com
*Prices taken from respective retailers and AppliancesOnline.com, correct as of February 2020.