There comes a time (or two or three) in everyone’s life when “one of the big ones” breaks down. By the “big ones,” we’re talking about household appliances: refrigerators, dishwashers, and water heaters. Here, we’re focused on a specific pair of appliances – washing machines and dryers. Replacing or upgrading your laundry room appliances is quite a task. There are so many options to choose from. But are the bells and whistles worth the extra investment? Here, we dive into the perks of high-efficiency washers and dryers, compare their performance to conventional ones, and help you decide what type of washer and dryer to buy.
Table of Contents
- What’s the Difference Between High-Efficiency Washers and Dryers and Traditional Washers and Dryers?
- Types of High-Efficiency Washing Machines and Dryers
- Features Frequently Found in High-Efficiency Washers and Dryers
- Are High-Efficiency Machines Better?
- What Type of Washer and Dryer Is for You?
What’s the Difference Between High-Efficiency Washers and Dryers and Traditional Washers and Dryers?
Many appliances sold today are labeled as “high-efficiency.” This means they must meet energy and resource use standards set by the Department of Energy. However, you can still buy conventional washers and dryers, often at a lower price point than their high-efficiency counterparts. As you shop for a washer and dryer, you may wonder if the high-efficiency models are worth it. Here, we compare the key factors of high-efficiency and traditional washers and dryers.
What’s an obvious way to increase the efficiency of a load of laundry? Wash more clothes at a time! High-efficiency washers and dryers generally have greater load capacities than traditional appliances do because their internal infrastructure is smaller. If you opt for a high-efficiency washer, you will also generally have more size options. In general, dryers have larger load capacities than washers do. That’s because clothes take up more room as they dry out and fluff up. Depending on the brand and type of appliance you choose, the load capacity will vary on your lifestyle. In a small apartment, you’ll want to save space with a compact washer and dryer, or an all-in-one machine that both washes and dries your clothes. If you have more space, opt for a stackable or standard setup with a larger capacity. Some brands even offer extra-large washers and dryers with load capacities upwards of seven cubic feet.
The load capacity of washers and dryers depends on the size of the machine. In general, however, high-efficiency varieties have greater load capacities and offer more size options, allowing you to curate the appliances to your space.
Refer to the chart below for a summary of the standard load capacities of different types of washers and dryers.
|Washer and Dryer Types||Size (in cubic feet)|
Improving the efficiency of your appliances benefits both your wallet and the environment. High-efficiency washers use a fraction of the water that a traditional machine uses. This saves you money on your water bill and reduces your impact on the environment. While standard washers typically use upwards of 40 gallons per load, a high-efficiency washer only uses between 11 and 14 gallons.
For all washing machines, water efficiency is evaluated on a scale called the integrated water factor (IWF). The IWF is calculated using the ratio between the gallons of water used and the cubic foot capacity of the machine. The Department of Energy (DOE) set maximum IWF levels of 6.5 for top-loading washers and 4.7 for front-loading washers. The IWF of high-efficiency machines will generally fall well below the DOE’s standard In fact, most high-efficiency machines have an average IWF of less than 2.9 gallons of water per cubic foot. To find a DOE-approved machine, look for the Energy Star logo on the appliance. This demonstrates that the model passes standards for water and energy efficiency.
In a comparison of high-efficiency washers vs. regular washers, the high-efficiency models use less water.
Energy Usage and Efficiency
Both washing machines and dryers have standards for energy usage. Similar to water usage, all appliances must meet efficiency requirements set by the DOE’s program EnergyStar, and high-efficiency models must go beyond that.
For washing machines, this metric is measured by the integrated modified energy factor (IMEF), calculated in terms of the washer’s load capacity by the energy use per cycle (in kWh). Front-loaders must have a minimum IMEF level of 1.84 and top-loading washing machines can’t go below 1.57. While these standards apply to all washing machines, high-efficiency machines go above and beyond. Typically, a high-efficiency model uses 28% less energy
The efficiency of a dryer is determined by how many pounds of clothes can be dried per kilowatt hour. Dryer efficiency is affected by the air temperature and humidity in the dryer, the amount of water left in the clothes after the wash cycle, and the airflow over the clothes. Known as the minimum combined energy factor (CEF), the expected energy use depends on the type of dryer. Standard-size electric dryers must have a minimum CEF of 3.73 while their gas counterparts must surpass 3.30. High-efficiency models go well beyond this. Energy Star’s recommended dryers of 2022 include units with CEFs over 11.0, using an average of 20% less energy than conventional dryers do.
Read more about picking the most energy-efficient dryer.
High-efficiency washers and dryers have lower energy usage overall, monitored by standards from Energy Star.
Regardless of energy efficiency standards, if your clothes dry faster, you save money on energy. That’s why drying time is a crucial consideration to determine if high-efficiency dryers are worth the splurge. There are a few factors that play into drying time.
First, where does your dryer get its energy? Gas dryers typically dry clothes more quickly than the average electric model does because they heat up more quickly.
Secondly, even though this is about dryers, your washing machine has to be brought into the picture. Washers with powerful spin cycles leave clothes less wet. Less moisture going into the dryer means shorter drying times.
Thirdly, different types of clothes dry at different speeds. Anyone who has unloaded their laundry only to find their denim is still damp knows this well.
That being said, there are some trends in dryer efficiency, and Energy Star includes cycle duration in its testing, providing some standardization to these variables.
Standard dryers take an average of 50 minutes to dry a medium-sized load, while the average time for high-efficiency models take an average of 64.5 minutes to dry. However, high-efficiency dryers have quite the range of drying times, going as low as 34 minutes. The quicker times generally come at a higher price point.
Drying time is on average less for conventional machines compared to high-efficiency machines. However, more expensive high-efficiency models do come with impressively fast drying times.
Regardless of energy efficiency or water use, a washing machine is useless if it doesn’t actually clean your clothes. Studies comparing conventional washers to high-efficiency models found little difference in their efficacy. In fact, one study using spectrophotometric measurements (a way to measure stains) found that the high-efficiency models more effectively removed stains from motor oil and mustard. Other studies, however, found little statistical difference between the washers’ cleaning performances. It’s safe to say that both traditional and high-performance washing machines will effectively clean your clothes.
It’s worth noting that high-efficiency washing machines do require more maintenance. Because they use less water, they don’t always flush away the residue. Luckily, modern washers have a “machine cleaning cycle” option. Consult the manual for your particular model for information on how frequently to run it. For all washing machines, we recommend leaving the door ajar, especially in humid climates. This will prevent the growth of mold and mildew that thrive in moist environments.
Conventional and high-efficiency washers both effectively clean clothes. However, high-efficiency models do require more upkeep.
Because both top-loaders and front-loaders often have more refined cleaning mechanisms, they are more gentle on your clothes. Testing between the two types of washers indicates that less aggressive agitation from high-efficiency models better preserved the quality of clothing after 20 cycles. The more gentle agitation did not sacrifice cleanliness, though. In fact, the washing action sufficiently stains at the same rate as conventional washers do. Additionally, studies have reported that conventional washers are more likely to shrink your clothes than high-efficiency ones are.
High-efficiency washers are more gentle on your clothes than traditional models are, retaining the quality and increasing the longevity of each item.
Types of High-Efficiency Washing Machines and Dryers
When choosing a high-efficiency washing machine and dryer, you have a choice of a couple of different types. The two types of washers differ in their door placement: front-load and top-load. In contrast, all traditional washers are top-load models. For more information on specific models, EnergyStar lists high-efficiency washer and dryer reviews. We’ve provided some examples of high-efficiency appliances in three categories: front-load washers, top-load washers, and dryers.
A front-load washer has a door on the front of the machine, so you load the clothes from the front. Compared to a top-load washer, front-load machines use less water but take more time. Additionally, front-load washers don’t have a structural element for cleaning the clothes.
- TurboWash 360 Technology
- AI Fabric Sensor/ Smart Pairing
- ThinQ App Controls Laundry Remotely
- Power Clean Big Loads In Under 30 Minutes
- ONE MACHINE, TWO WASHERS: With FlexWash, you can wash 2 separate clothing loads at the same time in 1 machine, and wash each load with different cycles, settings, and options to keep all your clothes and fabric types clean and in great condition
- LAUNDRY JUST GOT SMARTER: Samsung’s simple to use, AI Powered Smart Dial learns and recommends your favorite wash cycles, sets the right dryer cycle based on your wash cycle, and allows you to customize cycle list and change displayed language
- SUPER SPEED WASHING: Wash a full load with full performance in just 28 minutes; With an added Super Speed Dryer, achieve a complete wash and dry in under an hour
- CONTROL IN THE PALM OF YOUR HAND: Wi-Fi connected so you can receive end of cycle alerts, remotely start or stop your wash, schedule cycles on your time, and more, right from your smart phone with the SmartThings App
- A CLEANER, PROTECTED WASHER: Treated with CleanGuard antimicrobial technology to deliver long-lasting protection of high-touch areas and help keep the drum and detergent drawer smelling fresh
How Do They Wash?
Front-load washers take advantage of gravity and the centrifugal force of the washing machine to clean the clothes. During the cycle, the clothes rub against one another, scrubbing them free of soil and stains.
Front-load washers are more efficient from a resource perspective. They use less water than their top-loading counterparts do. Though their cycles take more time (60 minutes or more), the additional spin cycle wrings more water from the clothes, resulting in less time in the dryer.
Examples of High-Efficiency Front-Load Washers
Below are some examples of high-efficiency front-load washing machines as recommended by Energy Star.
|LG WM4500HA||2.9 gal/ft3||3.1 kWh/ft3||5.0 cubic feet||$1,198-$1,215|
|Samsung WF50BG83A||2.9 gal/ft3||3.1 kWh/ft3||5.0 cubic feet||$699.99-$749.00|
|LG WM9500HA||2.7 gal/ft3||3.1 kWh/ft3||5.8 cubic feet||$1,799.99|
|Maytag MHW3505F||3.2 gal/ft3||2.92 kWh/ft3||4.4 cubic feet||$497.00|
|Whirlpool WFW75HEF||3.2 gal/ft3||2.92 kWh/ft3||4.5 cubic feet||$549.00|
|Samsung WF45T62A||2.9 gal/ft3||2.92 kWh/ft3||4.5 cubic feet||$895.10|
|Electrolux EFLW317||3.2 gal/ft3||2.76 kWh/ft3||4.3 cubic feet||$729.00|
Unlike front-load washers, top-load washers have a structural element that creates the cleaning power. From a time perspective, top-load washers are more efficient. Depending on the washing element, cycle times range from 30-50 minutes.
- Width: 25.625" x Height: 42.75" x Depth: 28"
- Type: Top Load - Capacity: 3.2 cu. ft.
- Agitator: Yes - Wash Cycles: 6
- Top Load Stainless Steel Wash Tub - No Lid Lock
- 120 Volts - Weight: 200.00
- TOP-LOAD WASHER: Large 4.2 cubic foot capacity washing machine washes more clothes, linens, and bedding in one load, and has a Deep Fill option to keep everything mixed on select cycles
- ADVANCED CLEANING: Features a triple action agitator with a Direct Drive Motor that keeps clothes moving during the wash cycle for a thorough cleaning that gets clothes cleaner
- CONVENIENT AND EASY TO USE: Allows you to conveniently load your clothes, towels, delicates, and more from the top for easy access to the stainless steel water basin
- CUSTOMIZED CLEANING MODES: Features 12 wash cycles for a custom clean, including Express Wash for quick loads and Bulky Bedding to get your bed linens and sheets fresh and clean
- IDEAL SIZE: Measures 27.5" W x 28.0" D x 37.0" H and 51.2" H when lid is open for a perfect fit in your laundry room
- WA50R5200AW 4.5 Cu. Ft. White Top Load Washer
- 9 Wash Cycles | 8 Wash Options
- DVE50R5200W 7.4 Cu. Ft. White Electric Dryer With Sensor Dry
- 10 Dry Cycles | 10 Dry Options
How Do They Wash?
The two types of cleaning structures are agitators and impellers. Agitators are vertical cylinders with fins that rub against the clothes. In contrast, impellers are low-profile discs that create the movement to rub the clothes together.
Examples of High-Efficiency Top-Load Washers
Below are some examples of high-efficiency top-load washing machines as recommended by Energy Star.
|LG WT1501C||3.7 gal/ft3||2.38 kWh/ft3||4.5 cubic feet||$549.00|
|GE GTW725BN||4.3 gal/ft3||2.06 kWh/ft3||4.6 cubic feet||$629.99-$893.00|
|Whirlpool WTW7300D||4.3 gal/ft3||2.06 kWh/ft3||4.8 cubic feet||$699.00|
|Samsung WA52M77A||4.3 gal/ft3||2.06 kWh/ft3||5.2 cubic feet||$699.99-$899.99|
|LG WT7900HA||3.2 gal/ft3||2.76 kWh/ft3||5.5 cubic feet||$1,034.99-$1,349.99|
|LG WT7800C||3.2 gal/ft3||2.76 kWh/ft3||5.5 cubic feet||$879.99-$1,049.40|
Learn more about the differences between front-load and top-load washing machines.
Types of High-Efficiency Dryers
To get certified by Energy Star as a high-efficiency dryer, the machine must use 20% less energy than conventional models. However, energy source does play into this. Some dryers run off electricity while others have a gas hookup. For standard dryers, gas power is typically more efficient, but electric, compact models surpass even the gas-powered ones. Below is a chart listing some of the popular dryers approved by Energy Star.
|Type||Power Type||CEF||Capacity||Cost Range|
|Samsung DV22N680H||Electric||5.85 lbs/kWh||4.0 cubic feet||$799.99-$1,075.10|
|LG DLEX4000||Electric||3.94 lbs/kWh||7.4 cubic feet||$944.99-$1,249.99|
|Samsung DVE60M99||Electric||3.94 lbs/kWh||7.5 cubic feet||$1,799.99|
|LG DLGX7801E||Gas||3.49 lbs/kWh||7.3 cubic feet||$944.99-$1,149.30|
|Samsung DVG52M77||Gas||3.49 lbs/kWh||7.4 cubic feet||$759.99-$989.99|
|LG DLG3601||Gas||3.49 lbs/kWh||7.4 cubic feet||$1,149.99-$1,249.99|
Features Frequently Found in High-Efficiency Washers and Dryers
If you’re shopping for new washers and dryers, you may have noticed that some models are labeled as high-efficiency. But apart from energy and water savings, what does that label really mean? Because high-efficiency models are new to most consumers, it can be hard to know what to look for. Here are some of the features you can expect to get in a high-efficiency machine.
If you’ve ever needed to quickly get a stain out of a work shirt or just wash a single set of sheets, the speed wash feature on high-efficiency washing machines is for you. Designed for small loads, this cycle usually lasts under 30 minutes. In addition to the quick wash, the speed cycle uses a super fast spin to remove as much moisture as possible before drying.
An “end of cycle” signal is fairly common on all types of washers and dryers. But the irritating alarm can be disruptive, and if you’ve left the room, you might not even hear it. Many high-efficiency laundry sets come with advanced technology that sends cycle notifications straight to your phone.
Auto Dispensing Detergent
Does the sticky residue in laundry detergent caps drive you nuts? This is the feature for you. Look for a high-efficiency washing machine that has auto-dispersing detergent and fabric softener capabilities. To use, periodically fill up a large reservoir. With each cycle, the machine portions it into your laundry.
For any high-efficiency washer, you will need a specific type of detergent. Look for high-efficiency detergents labeled HE (an acronym for high-efficiency). These detergents are manufactured to work with the reduced water volume of high-efficiency washers. Additionally, they will disperse more quickly and produce fewer suds than traditional detergents will.
No one loves doing laundry. Even when the washer and dryer work flawlessly, it’s still a chore. In the worst-case scenario, having to rewash clothes, add more time to the dryer, and hover at home to switch out loads can be a true pain. Many high-efficiency washers and dryers come with smart technology updates that make laundry less of a hassle.
- Remote starts: While delayed starts are a common feature of many washing machines, smart technology allows you to schedule a cycle to start at a specific time. Connected to WiFi, you can even give a command to start a cycle via your smartphone.
- Cycle Notifications: As mentioned above, washers and dryers connected to WiFi can send updates on laundry status directly to your phone. Even if you are out of the house, you can send commands for the machines to lightly spin your clothes.
- Clothes sensing: One of the ways high-efficiency washing machines save water is through clothes sensing technologies. Once you add the load of laundry, the machine will toss it around for a few moments to detect the amount. Based on the amount of clothing in the washer, water levels will adjust.
- Custom cycle storage: Some washers have touch screens that allow you to choose specific details about your laundry. Using the information on the clothing color, fabric type, and type of stain, an algorithm designs the cycle type that will best match that load. You can even store these custom cycles in the machine’s memory, so you never accidentally shrink a linen shirt again!
- Wrinkle care: Adding an extra 15-minute fluff to the dryer is nothing new, but did you know smart washing machines also have wrinkle care settings? If too much time passes between the final rinse cycle and the dryer, the clothes can get wrinkles that won’t even come out in the dryer. The wrinkle care setting on washing machines is a great option if you won’t be able to change your laundry over by the time the wash is done. Wrinkle care periodically tumbles your clothes with steam to keep them from developing wrinkles.
- Moisture sensing: In a dryer, moisture sensing technology detects the amount of water left in your clothes. With that information, the dryer automatically adjusts the time left on the cycle and shuts off when it senses the clothes are dry.
One thing to note, however, is the learning curve required by some high-efficiency models. With the “Smart” technology, the abundance of buttons, touch screens, and options can be confusing at first. Compared to the simple knob and button on a traditional model, all the bells and whistles might seem a bit extra. But once you learn to use them, these extra features take better care of your clothes and are more convenient for you.
Are High-Efficiency Machines Better?
In general, high-efficiency washers and dryers are more efficient and equally as effective as conventional ones. But there are pros and cons of high-efficiency washers and dryers worth considering.
- Money: The upfront cost of high-efficiency washers and dryers is usually higher than conventional units’ prices, but the long-term energy costs are usually much lower. This can save money on utility bills and help the environment, especially if you wash clothes often.
- Time: Another consideration is cycle time. Standard washers and dryers as on average faster than high-efficiency cycles, but the modern models offer smart technology that allows you more freedom in scheduling your laundry.
- Noise: Most high-efficiency units are also quieter than conventional units, which is great if you want to save noise at home without sacrificing the quality of your clothes.
What Type of Washer and Dryer Is for You?
The best washer and dryer is the one that best meets the needs of your household. To decide on a pair of appliances, consider your specific priorities. These could include money, environmental impact, smart tech features, and convenience.
If you can’t afford the upfront costs of high-efficiency washers and dryers, don’t worry! There are plenty of conventional units that will help you save on the initial cost. However, if reducing your environmental impact is important, consider the more sustainable high-efficiency models. But the most important part of laundry is if you have fresh, dry clothes at the end of the cycle. Both HE setups and traditional washers and dryers are effective cleaners, so it’s up to your preference for the other features to help you decide what to pick.