Energy adviser: Clean up with efficient new washer

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Do you know that if you buy a high-efficiency clothes washer from a participating Energy Star retailer in Clark County, you will receive a point-of-sale $50 rebate on the deal?

It’s an incentive from Clark Public Utilities to encourage you to do the right thing for the environment one load of dirty clothes at a time.

High-tech, front-loading machines use less energy, less water and detergent and do a better job of cleaning,. They also spin clothes more efficiently, which means shorter drying times.

“The initial cost of these machines is higher than regular machines, but I tell customers every load they do saves money,” said Dave Fletcher, owner of One Stop Home Furnishings in Camas. “It’s amazing how much less water you use if you’re a family of four or five with these machines.”

Fletcher recommends doing research before walking into an appliance store. First, look for Energy Star labeling, which guarantees the machine is at least 30 percent more efficient than a regular washer.

Then check out the machine’s modified energy factor. This ratio compares the size of the machine’s washer capacity in cubic feet with how much energy it will use in terms of motor size. That way, you get an apples-to-apples way of determining which machines are most efficient. There’s also a rating for water use, because front-loading machines use less water than top-loading washers.

Armed with this information, start looking at brands and prices, which start somewhere around $500 per machine.

Brace yourself for the barrage of tantalizing colors when you walk into the appliance store. Try to ignore, Fletcher advises, the gorgeous new model colors. Focus instead on the features that are important to you.

Smart machines

The investment may be worth it. High-efficiency washers determine how best to do your clothes. After loading, the washer will tumble the clothes a few turns to weigh them, which then determines how much water is necessary for cleaning. You can tell the washer how dirty the clothes are. That helps the machine decide how long they should be washed. Dirty jeans may get more time in the washer than lightweight sheets, for instance.

Pick the settings — along with hot or cold water — and the washer does the rest.

New machines agitate clothes at a certain speed in one direction, then stop and agitate in the opposite direction for more thorough cleaning. They use one-fifth the amount of detergent of a top-loading tub machine. The savings comes in less wasted energy, hot water, detergent and drying time.

Where to shop

Clark Public Utilities offers a list of 10 participating Energy Star retailers where you can take advantage of the $50 rebate. The rebates are part of the utility’s ongoing program to avoid energy waste when residents purchase new refrigerators, freezers, solar water heaters and washers.

Rebate information is at http://www.clarkpublicutilities.com. Rebates range from $25 on an Energy Star refrigerator or freezer to $2,000 for a geothermal heat pump.

Dryers do not qualify for a rebate and are not rated for energy efficiency, because all dryers use about the same amount of energy.Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to energyadviser@clarkpud.com or to Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.