Commercial clothes washers, which include both front-loading and top-loading models, are typically used in laundromats and multi-family buildings.
DOE finalized the current standards for commercial clothes washers in 2010, and they took effect in 2013. The metric for energy efficiency is modified energy factor (MEF), which is expressed in terms of cubic feet of washer capacity per kWh of energy consumed per cycle. MEF incorporates machine electrical energy consumption, hot water energy consumption, and the energy required to remove the remaining moisture in the clothes. The metric for water efficiency is water factor (WF), which is expressed in terms of gallons of water consumed per cubic foot of washer capacity. A higher MEF indicates better energy efficiency, while a lower WF indicates better water efficiency. The current standards specify minimum MEF levels of 1.6 and 2.0 for top-loading and front-loading washers, respectively, and maximum WF levels of 8.5 and 5.5.
In 2014, DOE finalized new standards for commercial clothes washers. The new standards are based on new metrics—integrated modified energy factor (IMEF) and integrated water factor (IWF). The standards specify minimum IMEF levels of 1.35 and 2.00 for top-loading and front-loading washers, respectively, and maximum IWF levels of 8.8 and 4.1. Relative to the current standards, the new standards represent energy savings of 15% and 18% for top-loading and front-loading washers, respectively. The new standards will also reduce the water consumption of front-loaders by 20%, while the maximum water use of top-loaders will remain essentially unchanged. The new standards will take effect in January 2018.
Front-loading washers are generally much more efficient than top-loading machines. Significantly greater energy and water savings could be achieved if all commercial clothes washers met the efficiency levels of front-loading machines. Under the 2018 standards, a top-loading washer can consume almost 50% more energy and more than twice as much water as a front-loading machine. DOE found that the 2018 standards can be met using higher spin speeds for front-loading washers and improved controls for top-loading washers.