Washing Machine Water Consumption: Front Load vs Top Load
You may have wondered how much water does a washing machine use? Well, the answer is a lot. As washing machine water usage is not a straightforward number, it takes a bit of consideration to determine the exact water usage. Front-load washers and low-energy washing machines in general use less, but did you know there were more ways to save than simply purchasing an Energy Star-rated washer? Let’s break it down.
When you’re doing your laundry, it takes a lot of time, energy, and water. In fact, washing machine water usage accounts for 16% to 23% of the total water usage in an average American home. Add to this the costs of running a standard washing machine (i.e. the electricity costs) and you will see why a high-efficiency front-load washer is always the best solution, despite its higher price.
An average US family uses more than 5,600 gallons of water and 140-280 kWh of electricity every year just for doing the laundry. There are definitely ways to save, for as long as we make good, informed decisions. Regardless of the reasons you want to save, whether financial or ecological, being smart with your energy and water use and understanding your utility bill will help reduce your carbon footprint.
Washing machines use a lot of water, detergent, and electricity to do your laundry. The results are clean, fresh-smelling clothes and a lot of time saved. Washing machines are practical and present in almost every US home. They help do the boring work, so you do not have to. However, washing machines use a lot of water.
Average Water Usage
An average US washing machine has a high water usage of around 19 gallons per load. Although this may not seem as much, 19 gallons times 5-6 loads of laundry that an average family does every week, add up to 5,600 gallons of water used every single year. Using Energy Star-rated appliances reduces water usage up to about 14 gallons per load and saves approximately 1,400 gallons a year.
You will be able to notice the biggest difference in how much water is used if you switch to an energy-efficient or an Energy Star-certified washer that is also a front loader. This way, you will be able to save up to 66% of your water and electricity use. As front-loaders use gravity to wash the clothes, they also damage them less, so that your towels and linen will last for longer.
Factors Affecting the Water Usage
As no two washing machines are made the same, they do not use the same amount of water. In relation to this is the laundry detergent use and electricity use, as more water in the drum means that you need to use more detergent to reach an effective amount of detergent per gallon of water. In addition to this, more water means a higher energy use, as more electricity will be needed to heat a higher volume of water.
When it comes to washer capacity, the math is straightforward: the higher the capacity, the higher the water use. However, it does not have to be as simple as that. Namely, every washer has a preset minimum water level. This is the level that ensures that the agitator or the impeller (more on that later) can spin and wash your clothes properly. This means that purchasing a smaller-capacity washing machine will not necessarily save as much water as you may hope.
Alternatively, putting more clothes in the washer will result in higher water use, but will still use less water per pound of your clothes. This is the math behind it. So, purchasing and running larger washing machines will reduce how much water your washing machine uses every day.
Load size also has a big say in how much water and power will be used every day. Depending on how many gallons your machine uses per pound of clothes, it is usually much better to go for a high-efficiency washer and make sure that it is full before each use. This way, you also ensure that there are more clothes inside to rub against the agitator or the impeller, leaving you with cleaner clothes in return.
Load size in the US can be stated in two formats: either in cubic feet or pounds of laundry they can wash. Most US models can wash an average of 4-5 cubic feet of clothing and they should be 80% full when running them. This way, you secure the most efficient energy use and the lowest possible cost per pound of clothes that you wash. Considering that an average US family washes their clothes 5-6 times a week, this translates to a lot of savings.
The cycle settings on washing machines also have a big say in water use. How much water does a washing machine use under normal circumstances? Well, it depends on the cycle characteristics. Here are the cycles normally found on US washers:
- Regular / Normal / Cotton,
- Permanent Press / Colors, and
Permanent press and delicate clothes may use more water, as the color fabrics are mostly made from polyester, while delicate clothes may be made of wool or even silk. This way, your clothes will be washed in more water to prevent the clothes from getting damaged.
In addition to this, you can also consider some additional cycles, such as:
- Higher water level (or anti-allergy cycle),
- Extra rinse cycle,
- Allergen Plus.
All of these cycle settings increase the water use of your washing machine and may increase the water and electricity bill even with an Energy Star-certified model. High-efficiency washing machines can still use a lot of water, albeit less than regular or outdated models.
The washer type, however, has the biggest say in how high-efficiency its water use is. Here, we can differentiate between the basic models of:
- Top loaders with impellers,
- Top loaders with agitators, and
- Front-loading washing machines.
Top-load washing machines are the least energy-efficient of them all. As the energy efficiency is low, this means that water usage is high. In reality, top-load washers use up to three times the amount of water and electricity to keep your clothes clean. This means that one wash cycle will use as much water and energy as three wash cycles in a front loader. However, not all top-loaders are made the same.
Top loaders with impellers will cost more than top loaders with agitators. That is because the technology they use is more advanced and because the energy required to run them is much lower. A top loader with an impeller can also take more clothes, as the agitator is not in the way.
Most washing machine models with impellers are more water-efficient than even Energy-Star HE washers with an agitator. This is because they use less water and electricity. The middle space is not occupied by an agitator and you will only be able to see a low mound-like structure at the bottom. Some impeller models also have a water pump that cycles the water and uses it to give more movement to the clothes, a solution that results in much cleaner clothes.
On the other hand, top-loaders with agitators use less water overall, but more water per pound of clothes that they should wash. These models spin the agitator to rub the clothes against it and each other and to provide the cleaning effect. These models use a lot of water, as the clothes need a lot of space to move around and get cleaned.
Front-load washers, on the other hand, use much less water and help you save money. The secret is in the position of the drum itself. In top-loader washers, the drum is placed vertically and needs to be filled with water to ensure clothes can move around and get clean. In front-loaders, however, the drum is positioned horizontally and is never filled with water.
As the horizontal position of the washer’s drum ensures you save many gallons of water, you will also save electricity. When washing, front-loaders will generally use less water, as they only need to get the clothes damp, and never submerge them in water. This makes for lower water, energy, and laundry detergent use. This, in turn, makes every front-load washer a washer with a high-efficiency rating.
Furthermore, the spin cycle with front-loaders is also much faster, and it reaches higher RPM values. Standard models will have up to 1,200 RPM during the spin cycle and will reach a very high level of water expelled from the laundry. As the clothes leave the washer with less water on them, they will also dry faster and you will be able to save on multiple points with all front-load washing machines.
Age of Washer
Needless to say, the older your washing machine is, the more water it will use. Some of the oldest models that can still be seen in American homes use up to 43 gallons of water per wash cycle. If you have a model like this, you can easily reduce how much water you use by simply switching to a new washing machine.
Newer models also have the added benefit of being thriftier with the energy they use. An average washing machine uses warm water to wash clothes. However, newer models can achieve the same results in cold water, especially if you use a concentrated detergent. Be careful not to overuse the detergent, as too much detergent can result in higher water use – most laundry machines inspect the water for the presence of suds before disposing of it. More suds mean one more rinse cycle.
Energy Certified or Not
Your washer should always be energy-certified. In the US, there are two types of washer certifications that you should pay attention to reduce how much water your washer uses. Both are labeled, and the label itself carries enough information for you to make an educated decision. Besides energy certification, there are also washers that are certified to sanitize your clothes, so make sure to understand your needs before making the purchase.
Water Usage by Brand/Model
As washing machines use a different amount of water per load, it is necessary to compare models, not only based on their price but also their water use. A highly HE machine will use less water, as well as electricity. They do not have to be smaller in size. In fact, even standard-sized washers or top-load models can have low water use. Here are the top water-saving washers on the US market:
|Washer Model||Washer Type||Gallons per Load||Gallons per Cubic Foot (Integrated Water Factor)||Gallons of Water Use per Year [300 Loads]|
|Washer Beko BWM7200X||Front-Loader||6.9||3.60||2,070|
Tips to Reduce Your Washing Machine’s Water Usage
Even if you have HE washing machines, there are still ways to save and improve your overall energy efficiency. “Wash large loads” and “do so in cold water” are common pieces of advice, but there is so much more that you can do to reduce the energy your washing machine uses. Here are the top 10 pieces of advice on how to save water when doing your laundry:
- Use the Right Amount of Detergent,
- Limit Wash Days,
- Reuse Towels,
- Rewear Clothes,
- Upgrade the Washing Machine,
- Only Wash Full Loads,
- Choose the Right Cycle for the Load,
- Use Water-Efficient Cycles,
- Skip Extra/Extended Rinse Cycles, and
- Always Check for Leaks.
Use the Right Amount of Detergent
Using the right amount of detergent may be a surprise on the list. However, when you have a closer look at the detergent packaging, you can see that they give you instructions on the amount per quantity of clothes, not just for a full load. So, if you are doing a small load, less detergent will suffice.
Furthermore, your washing machine may have a suds detector, which will use more water per rinse cycle to get rid of the stubborn suds that can appear when you use too much detergent. In addition to saving detergent, you will also save water and energy. This is something anyone with a top-load washer will appreciate as washing clothes costs them extra.
Limit Wash Days
Limiting wash days can also help. Most people who do not have a dedicated wash day wash smaller loads, which decreases the energy performance of the washer and can even reduce their life – as they do more loads per year, they will break down faster. Having dedicated wash days will make you wash fewer, fuller loads, conserving water while doing so.
Also, instead of washing several loads in a single day, what you can do is wash just 2-3 loads. In general, you do not need to separate clothes by materials, but rather by the temperature, they should be washed on. That way, you can put all your delicate items in at once, all your mediums, and all your linen and towels. This is just 3 loads, compared to the average 5-6 that an average family washes.
The way you use your towels and the linen can also have a big say in how water-efficient your home is. If you start reusing towels and use the same one after 2-3 showers, you will reduce the number of loads you need to wash. You can do the same thing with your hand and face towels, and switching your linen weekly, rather than every few days will save even more.
Most clothes can be worn multiple times before they need to be washed. This way, you can reduce the loads you do every week, which is something that even high-efficiency washing machines will appreciate. You can also help slash your water bill this way.
In general, all clothes that are clean by the end of the day can be re-worn. The exceptions here are sportswear, T-shirts, socks, and underwear, which should be switched every single day. However, your sweaters, pants, shirts, and shorts can all be worn multiple times before needing to be washed.
Upgrade the Washing Machine
Upgrading your washing machine is a great way to save energy and water. Namely, your washing machine’s water consumption may be very high simply due to its age. Newer washing machines save up to 66% of water when compared to older models. This also means saving 66% of laundry detergent and 66% of energy, especially on hot cycles.
Only Wash Full Loads
Only washing full loads will also help you reduce your water bill. A good HE washer saves a lot of energy, but even more when coupled with good washing habits. For this reason, you should always wash loads that are 80-90% full. Anything less, and you’re wasting both water and risking an unbalanced spin cycle – something that significantly reduces the life expectancy of your washer.
Choose the Right Cycle for the Load
Choosing the right cycle for the load can significantly reduce water and energy use. In general, you should be able to differentiate between different types of clothes and their soil level. This way, you can choose the exact cycle for the load. Here are some tips and tricks on how to choose the best cycle in both top-loaders and front-loading washers:
- Pay attention to the label – it should have the wash temperature stated,
- Check out the material – light or white cotton can be washed at very high temperatures,
- Mildly colored cotton, such as light blue or pink colors can be used as washers on warm cycles,
- Dark clothes should always be washed in cold water, to avoid damaging the clothes, releasing colors, and having worn-out-looking clothes after only a few wears,
- Black clothes should always be washed in cold water,
- Delicate items can be washed on their own cycle – look for “delicate”, “soft”, “hand wash”, “wool”, “silk”, or other similarly-named cycles,
- Pay attention to what the label says on softener use – as not all materials will work well with it. Softeners build up on clothes over time, so your rugs and kitchen towels may not absorb water and clean as well if you use softeners,
- Pay attention to the spin cycle instructions, as they may damage delicate clothing, such as wool sweaters.
Use Water-Efficient Cycles
Water-efficient cycles use fewer gallons of water per load. In general, unless your clothes are heavily soiled, you will be able to get clean clothes even with less water. Water-efficient cycles cannot be found on every top-load washer, so choosing front-loading washers, modern machines or a high-efficiency washer will help reduce your water use.
Some people, however, can have allergies. If you suffer from pollen allergies, are sensitive to the detergent you use, or need to take extra care of your clothes, you may want to consider NOT using a water-efficient cycle. If you do use it, you may not get the results you want.
Skip Extra/Extended Rinse Cycles
Check your rinse settings. Being smart with the amount of detergent you use will reduce the water used during the rinse cycle. However, if you use an extended rinse cycle by default, you may want to reconsider this practice, as it does not yield much better results than a standard rinse cycle. Skipping it will save water and energy.
Always Check for Leaks
Leaks can be a killer when it comes to your water bill. Namely, all washers and the hoses that connect them to the mains are prone to leaks, so you should check for a leak at least twice a year. It barely takes 30 seconds to check a single washer but may save you hundreds on your water bill. When it comes to leaks, they can also cause structural damage to your house, faulty wiring, start a fire, and make your washer break down sooner than normal.
What Uses Most Water in Home?
There are several large users of water in an average home. Flushing the toilet is the biggest offender of them all, so make sure you get a water-efficient or a low-flush toilet. Showers and washers are the next on the list of worst offenders.
What are the Disadvantages of Top Loading Washing Machine?
There are several disadvantages of top-loading washers:
• They use more water,
• They use more energy,
• They use more detergent, and
• They cannot spin the clothes as fast, resulting in damper clothes that take longer to dry.
Modern washing machines deal with most of these issues but are never as good as a front-loader.
What are the disadvantages of a front-Loading Washing Machine?
Front-loading machines have their disadvantages as well:
• The drum is usually smaller than with a top loader,
• The high-RPM spin cycle can damage your clothes,
• They are not as delicate with your delicate clothes.
Is Washing Machine Water Good for Your Lawn?
Washing machine water is usually not good for the lawn. However, there are things you can do to make it much better:
• Use organic, biological detergents,
• Never use a softener,
• Never run hot water on your lawn – rather run it to a tank and let it cool down completely before applying it to the lawn.
• Always filter the water before it is sent to the lawn – washer runoff water contains microplastics which may pollute the soil and the waterways.
If you are having second thoughts, check the regulations in your area. You would usually be able to run a gray-water line to your orchard and the lawn, but not to your vegetable patch or berries.
There are many ways to save when using both your front-load and top-load washer. As washers use many gallons of water per load, limiting the number of loads you do in a week, only running full loads, and looking for the Energy-Star label can help save a lot. Front-load models are always the best option, as they can save up to 66% of gallons of water per load they do.