The Ultimate Guide to Water Conservation with Washing Machines

The Ultimate Guide to Water Conservation with Washing Machines

Washing Machine

Modern appliances that use water are far more efficient than older models. For example, a typical older washing machine uses 41 gallons of water in a single load. Many current models use between 20 and 25 gallons per load, which is 35-50% less water. ENERGY STAR-labeled washers can use only 15 gallons per load; this is about a third of the water used by older, inefficient models. Replacing a washing machine can save more than 25,000 gallons of water over the life of the machine. This is no small amount of water and cost savings, and such changes often pay for themselves in the long run.


There are three standard options for washing machines. Top-loading machines with center post agitators are often the cheapest to purchase. These top-loaders have fast wash cycles, but they weigh in with the least impressive performance because they typically require more water than any other type of washing machine. They can wash 12-16 pounds per load. More expensive, high-efficiency top-loading machines do not have a center post agitator. Often, they can wash more laundry per load using less water, which leads to less time in the dryer, resulting in lower energy costs, too. High-efficiency washers can often handle 17-24 pounds. The third option is front-loading washing machines, which typically use the least amount of water per load and leave clothes the driest. The best front-load washers use even less water, but they cost about the same as the top high-efficiency machines. They also can handle loads of 17-24 pounds. 

Water Factor

When comparing clothes washers, you should know about a useful number: the integrated water factor (IWF). The integrated water factor is the number of gallons of water used per cubic foot in a washer; the lower the water factor number, the more efficient the washer. The IWF is determined by dividing the total gallons used per load by the cubic feet of the washer. For example, let’s say you are in the market for a new washing machine and have narrowed your choices down to two options. Washer A uses 42 gallons per load and has a capacity of 3 cubic feet, and Washer B uses 15 gallons per load and has a capacity of 3 cubic feet. Which washing machine should you buy to reduce your water consumption and lower your utility bills? For Washer A, the water factor is 14 (42 divided by 3). For Washer B, the water factor is 5 (15 divided by 3). In this case, Washer B with the lower water factor is the better choice. Washing machines that bear the ENERGY STAR label have integrated water factors that range from 3.2 to 4.3.

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