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Washing machineWhen purchasing a new washer, consider high efficiency

Marsha Alexander, former Housing and Environmental Design Specialist, University of Missouri Extension


Are you planning to buy a new washing machine soon? If you are, there are many things to consider before the purchase. There are three different types of machines currently in the market: regular top-loaders with center-post agitators, top-loaders without center post agitators and front-loaders.


High efficiency (HE) washers have been available for over 10 years and have become increasingly popular in the consumer market in the last several years. HE washers are available in both front-loading and top-loading units. There are many more choices in the front-loading HE models than top-loading.


HE washers use significantly less water and energy than traditional units. The savings will depend on the age and model of your current washing machine. However, an HE washer can use from 20 to 66 percent less water and save 20 to 50 percent in energy use. As a consumer, these reductions translate to long-term cost savings. There are also significant long-term environmental benefits.


HE washers use low-water wash and rinse cycles. They utilize a tumbling system rather than an agitator. In some models, the water level is so low it will be hard to see a pool of water. Even with the reduced water levels you can wash the same size laundry loads. Once the cycle is completed, clothes may feel dryer when they are removed from HE washers because more water is removed.


There are detergents specifically formulated for HE washers and should be the only products used. These HE detergents are formulated to be low-sudsing and quick-dispersing to achieve the best cleaning performance. Traditional detergents can cause excess suds and not perform well in a low water level system. To identify the HE laundry detergents, look for a special HE symbol on the detergent box or bottle. Always read the label and use the manufacturer’s recommended amount of detergent for your wash load size and amount of soil.


One of the most important questions to be addressed about HE washers is the performance of the units. According to Consumer Reports, the best front-loading models often clean better and more efficiently than the best top-loading models, without necessarily costing more. The final selection of a washing machine needs to be made based on your family’s needs. Consider both the initial purchase price of the unit and the ongoing energy costs, water usage, typical family load sizes and space needs when making your selection.


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Last update: Monday, March 06, 2017