New standards to improve efficiency of clothes washers in laundromats and apartments

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Joanna Mauer

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) issued new efficiency standards today that will reduce the energy and water use of commercial clothes washers, which are used in laundromats and multi-family buildings.

DOE estimates that the new standards will net a typical owner of a commercial clothes washer $165 to $290 in savings over the life of the machine. On a national level, the new standards will save 70 trillion Btus of energy over 30 years of sales, an amount equivalent to the annual energy use of 390,000 U.S. households, and yield net present value savings for customers of $240 to $530 million.

The new standards will reduce the energy use of top-loading and front-loading commercial clothes washers by 15% and 18%, respectively. The new standards will also cut the water consumption of front-loaders by 20%, although the water use of top-loaders will remain essentially unchanged.

The energy efficiency of commercial clothes washers takes into account machine energy, water heating energy, and the clothes dryer energy necessary to remove the moisture in the clothes coming out of the washer. The new standards can be met using higher spin speeds for front-loading washers and improved controls for top-loading washers.

Both the current efficiency standards for commercial clothes washers and the new standards issued today include separate efficiency levels for top-loading and front-loading washers. Front-loading washers are much more efficient than top-loading machines. While the market share of front-loading washers has increased significantly over the last decade, top-loading commercial clothes washers still represent more than half of all sales.

In the future, significantly greater energy and water savings could be achieved if all commercial clothes washers met the efficiency levels of front-loading machines. Under the new standards, a top-loading washer can consume almost 50% more energy and more than twice as much water as a front-loading washer of the same capacity.

The new standards for commercial clothes washers will take effect January 1, 2018.