Clothes Washing Machines
What the differences between front loading and top loading?
So how well your washing machine rinses is just as important as how well it washes, perhaps even more so! And if money is important to you, the cost over say 10 years for cost of the machine, cost of detergents, cost of water, cost of electricity and any maintenance should be used in deciding which washing machine type to buy. AND if your machine doesn't need replacing at the moment, don't be conned into buying a new one on spurious environmental grounds. The cost of producing a new one and 'disposing' of the old one may be more environmentally costly than continuing to use what you already have - even if it uses a little more water.
How much sense does the current advertising and government incentives make when choosing a washing machine? Misinformation is being spread about the benefits of front loaders over top loaders and my opinion is that some of the information is a distortion of the real picture and the people who wish to be actively involved in the environment are being deceived. There's also many organisations turning over a lot of money from these deceptions.
and Rinse Performance - Front Loader vs Top Loader Comparison
I have taken the information published by Choice (www.choice.com.au December 2008 and extracted some of the data as presented in Table 1 to show that for the three different sizes of washing machines, the average of the wash and rinse performance shows that in most cases there front loaders (light green) perform poorly compared to the top loaders (yellow rows). It is my conclusion that the additional capital cost of the front loader, the increased time of washing against the savings in water use cannot compensate for the higher overall performance in wash and rinse performance of the top loaders. My preference is to choose a top loader, from the top of each capacity listing, as I consider the performance in washing and rinsing clothes the highest priorities for a washing machine. So, a rebate for changing from a top loader to a front loader is an economic disaster in our home. I can save water in other ways to compensate for the greater efficiency and reduce cycle time of a top loader.
From the date presented by Choice, I have deleted some columns and added two others (mauve). The average "calculated on wash and rinse performance only" and the second on the combined cost of the washing machine and its operating cost over ten years in simple terms (no interest or nett present value considerations). The machines are ranked on the averaged wash and rinse performance scores, the best at the top of each capacity, ranked downwards to the poorest performers. My opinion is that these data from Choice are superior to the certification by WELS Scheme, because they give information on which real choices can be made - not just water use. Water efficiency is more important than water conservation.
With the average cost of water at $1.00 per 1000 L there is no incentive to replace a top loader with a front loader on economic grounds.
Table 1. Comparison of wash and rinse for front loaders and top loaders.
OVERALL COST COMPARISONS
(Note: I've since been made aware that front loaders do not operate their motors over the full period of whole cycle, rather some time is spent with the clothes soaking. I have not had an opportunity to verify this soaking routine within the cycle.)
It can be seen from figure PC-1 that one could choose a front loader, or top
loader that has a similar annual cost. It is reasonable to assume that
this cost is closer to the environmental cost than simply looking at the savings
of water. Only addressing a savings in water may actually increase the
need for energy.
Other considerations could be the cost of detergent but have not been used here.
The individual data for this graph are not reproduced here.
When purchasing your new or replacement washing machine, you should consider not only whether you want to work on your knees or standing up, but:
# how many minutes a complete cycle takes (more time - more energy);
# whether the machine has a cold and hot water connection (otherwise you will be paying for prime energy rates to heat the water, even to warm water;
# whether you can choose liquid or powder detergents; and
# whether you can reduce wash water volume for a small load.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics released 4621.1 -Domestic Water and Energy Use, New South Wales, October 2006 on 10th May 2007. Information from the bulletin are given below:
Here are some details that you may find useful in choosing a washing machine.
1. Don't be conned by government rebates or manufacturers' advertising. There may be plenty of smoke and mirrors!
2. Until the Australia/New Zealand Standard (AS/NZS 2040.1:2005) was introduced in 2005 there was no standard against which a washing machine could be rated for RINSE (until July 2006, this Standard was voluntary). There was a standard against which a washing machine could be rated for washing efficiency and that has been used by Australian Consumers' Association in their publication "Choice" up until this new Standard came into being. So when you read pre-July2006 editions of "Choice" be aware that all recommendations were made without knowing how well the machine RINSED the clothes (you won't see any rating for rinse in their documents). And guesswork does not exchange for actual performance measuring. I believe that has finally changed, CHOICE tested laundry powders for rinse quality (Jan 2007) and liquids (2008). I assume they will also test washing machines for efficiency and not leave it solely to the accreditation process under WELS.
2. The Commonwealth Department of the Environment and Heritage has introduced a mandatory Water Efficient Labelling and Standards (WELS) Scheme (http://www.waterrating.gov.au/about/index.html) that "applies national mandatory water efficiency labelling and minimum performance standards to household water-using products" and replaces the voluntary Water Services Association of Australia's National Water Conservation Rating and Labelling Scheme (ceased 1st July 2006). Each state has also enacted its own legislation to complement the National scheme.
As of 1st July 2006, "washing machines, dishwashers, lavatory equipment, showers, tap equipment and urinal equipment are required to be registered and labelled" (AS/NZS 6400:2005). There are some exemptions until December 2007 that allow the sale of products that were manufactured in Australia or imported into Australia prior to 1 July 2006.
Once a product is registered under the WELS Scheme, compliance with the relevant standard is obligatory (Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Determination 2005).
The old AAA rating system has gone and equipment displaying that rating scheme was manufactured or imported prior to 1 July 2006.
SO WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT
WELS and washing machines? (other equipment will not be
The preface to AS/NZS 2040.2:2005 (page 3) states: "The introduction of a rinse performance requirement facilitated the introduction of mandatory water efficiency rating and labelling. Without a rinse performance requirement higher water efficiency rating could be achieved by reducing rinse performance levels that may not meet the needs of washing machine users". Interesting, are they suggesting that not all the previous star rating was all it was cracked up to be?
SO WHAT'S NEW ABOUT AS/NZS 6400:2005 - Water efficient products - Rating and labelling.
Table E1 (page 60 of the Standard) - clothes washing machine water consumption by star rating shows that for an 8 kg washing machine to achieve a four-star rating the maximum water consumption must be 82.3 litres or less (that's 10.3 L/kg). How these values were derived is unclear. What basis they have in terms of being "water efficient" I cannot deduce from the Standard which leads me to assume that they were nothing sort of a "stab in the dark" or a consensus of the people who made up the Standard's committee. Since AS/NZS 6400 was published on 1 June 2005 and AS/NZS 6400 published on 22 Dec 2005, does the water consumption rate bear any relationship to the ability to rinse? Not even five star rated machines were tested for rinse on 1 June 2005.
So you may ask the question - Who benefits from the Standard - the consumer, the manufacturers or no one?
Update: As at 6 January 2007, there were 84 front loaders on the WELS site, of which 74 had a 4-star rating or higher - NONE was made in Australia. There were 66 top loaders on the WELS site and only 1 had a 4-star rating, and that was made in New Zealand.
As of 31 January 2009, there were 221 front loaders on the WELS site that were 4-star or higher. Cannot tell where any of them are manufactured. There were 21 top loaders of 4-star or higher - cannot tell where they are made either. And cannot tell how long the various machines run for a full wash.
GOVERNMENT REBATES - let's look at an example
"Minister for Natural Resources and Water and Minister Assisting the Premier
in North Queensland
$277.7 MILLION in HOME WATERWISE REBATES PAID TO QUEENSLANDERS
"The Bligh Government has paid more than $277.7 million in rebates to Queenslanders saving water around their home, Water Minister Craig Wallace said today.
Mr Wallace told State Parliament the government’s Home WaterWise Rebate Scheme had proved tremendously popular with Queenslanders.
“We started the scheme in July 2006 to reward Queenslanders who save water at home by installing rainwater tanks and water efficient appliances,” he said. “To date, the scheme has received over 502,700 applications for more than 562,700 products, and has approved 465,300 applications for a rebate."
Other rebates amounts paid are:
$240.2 million for 239,010 rainwater tanks
$37.6 million for 188,417 four star water-rated washing machine
Let's look at those figures. To apply for a rebate (cash back) the washing machine has to be 4-star or 5-star rated. Under WELS (as at 31JAN09) there were 221 registered 4-star front loading washing machines and only 21 4-star top loaders to choose from. rated washing machines are imported. Therefore, this cash back given by the Queensland Government is only for imported washing machines. So much for "BUY AUSTRALIAN"! That what I would call hypocritical of a Government that is supposedly for Australian workers!!!!
That means: the Queensland Government's cash back on the 74,842 washing machines totals $15 million (tax payers money).
Research on the "Choice" website showed that the average price of a front loading washing machine was $1500. Certainly there are some cheaper, but many dearer.
That means: the 188,417 individual purchasers will spend collectively $282.6 million less $37.6 million cash back, a total of $245.0 million.
Using the data from WELS (as at January 2009), the average water consumption by 4-star front loaders is 68 litres (range 42-97 L) and for top loaders is 82 litres (range 56/103 L). Assume that a 4-star top loader is a replacement for a 1-3 Star top loader (average water use 121 L), By choosing a 4-star rated front loader over the average top loader, the water savings, on average is 39 litres per wash.
That means: The water likely to be saved for one wash per day every day of the year (365 washes) is 14.2 kilolitres. At a cost of $1.00 per kilolitre the average water saving is $14.20. Over the 188,417 residents, that's a saving of $2.68 million per year. That may seem a reasonable savings for the community but it has cost $282.6 million to get that savings. Some saving!!!!
Taking data on the washing time for front loaders and top loaders (Dec'07), the average front loader takes 131 minutes for a complete wash (range 37-176 minutes per wash) and the average top loader takes 61 (36 to 92 minutes). If the washing machines have the same size motor and all use cold water wash, the energy cost of a front loader over a top loader is an extra 426 hours per year. Assuming a 1/3 HP motor (250 W), the extra energy for the 188,417 machines is $3.2 million.
Put it all together:
Table 2. Comparison of rebates on washing machines with total expenditure and projected savings.
Some deal! All that has happened is that 188417 FULLY IMPORTED front loading washing machines have been purchased and a water saving has been converted to an increased requirement for energy. Who dreamed up this sort of economics?? What absolute garbage!!! That's environmentally IRRESPONSIBLE!!!!
NEW SOUTH WALES Rebates to Sydney Water customers only apply to 4½ star water efficiency rating of which there are 69 front loaders and ZERO top loaders registered on the WELS site (31Jan09) - http://www.sydneywater.com.au/SavingWater/InYourHome/WashingMachineRebate/
The Rebates provided by Sydney Water can be reviewed in
much the same
Calculate the savings in water at $1.00/kL, that's a saving of $0.42 million but 20,000 families have paid $30.0 million less $3.0 million of public money towards that small saving. Sure, every little bit help, but at whose cost. By the way, economists would say the payback period was about 75 years - great when the machines will only last 10-15 years!
In neither the Queensland nor the Sydney calculations has the full cost been taken to account for the interest payable on the cost of the machines if the money has to be borrowed, or the loss on investment if the money could have been used for other purposes. The accountants have a neat way to bring future values to today's values. The calculations do not take into account the significant energy required to manufacture, transport and retail those machines, nor the cost of dumping the replaced machines - or the cost of recycling the metals. Nor is the possible rise in water and energy costs included. Pity that Life Cycle Analysis is not applied to the rebate schemes, or even a simple economic assessment. Guess we have to expect that of some of our politicians!
So which type of washing machine should you choose?
Choice (http://www.choice.com.au) makes some good comparisons between front loaders and top loaders. However, if a single rating is used to denote the combined outcomes of energy use, water consumption, rinse quality and maintenance costs, how can you choose a machine that will meet your individual requirements if your prime concern is water consumption. Be a wise shopper! The latest update by Choice is December 2008.
Whether a top loader is harsher on clothes than a front loader may depend upon the detergent used. A powder will generally have a high pH (>10) that can be detrimental to fabrics whereas liquid detergents are more commonly of near neutral pH. What would happen to the ratings on a washing machine if it used a good performing liquid compared with a good performing powder and performed equally on wash, rinse and spin efficiency.
If you are really "feeling good" about buying a machine that is "kind on the environment" (there is not one single washing machine that is "environmentally friendly"), then just buying on water efficiency is really disastrous and you should reconsider your objectives because water use is but one component in a very complex "life cycle analysis" that must be completed before any environmental rating can be made. And if your government is telling you that water efficiency is everything, that's probably because they get the benefits of higher electricity usage, more GST and their political pixie points (sounds cynical....then just think through the advertising).
For a comparison of annual costs of front loaders compared with top loaders, see graph PC-1 at bottom of this page.
COLD, WARM or HOT WATER WASH
USING LAUNDRY DETERGENTS
Some washing machines only make allowance for automatically adding powder detergents at the correct timing in the wash program. If you want to use liquids because they have very much lower sodium loads, then you may need to rethink the type of washing machine that meets your requirements.
WASHING MACHINE BY TYPE
Remember, you are buying this washing machine for your benefit (to wash, rinse then spin your clothes), not for some 'good feeling' about the environment unless you are able to account for all the inputs into environmental benefits (which I doubt any of us can do!). No washing machine can be environmentally friendly, some may be more environmentally sensitive, but simply the acts of using detergents, energy, treated water and the resources that were used to make the machine have created their own suite of environmental impacts.
FL-C1 shows that the washing times (red line, right hand scale) are highly variable for washing 36 kg per week while the water consumption is reasonably constant between 300 and 400 L per week.
It is therefore possible to choose a front loader that is reasonably energy efficient - low cycle times, provided you don't count energy to heat the water.
The graph shows that there are not necessarily economies of scale in relation to water use or cycle time.
It is not possible to identify machine makes and models from the graph. The reader can make these same decisions by referring to the WELS website. Please do not contact Lanfax Labs as we will not identify the makes and models for you.
When using front loading washing machines, it is important that full loads are run. When choosing a washing machine, check whether you can choose varying water levels for different type and size loads.
Graph FL-C2 is a comparison of cost (x axis) to the washing time (red line, right hand axis) and water consumption (blue line, left hand axis). Price data were taken from Choice (ACA, June 2006) and the water and time from WELS website (Nov 06).
It is possible to choose front loading washing machines that use small volumes of water (low blue line) and use low energy (red line, low cycle time).
And spending more money does not necessarily mean lower wash times or smaller water volumes. However, it may mean more choice of washing/rinse cycles and how you handle sensitive fabrics, or spin difficult clothes.
It is clear from TL-C1 that there are small machines that use more water than larger machines (blue line) and it is also possible to choose machines that uses both low water and low energy (both blue and red are at low levels). Energy is equated to washing time since it has been impossible to identify the wattage of motors used in the machines, even by examining actual motors on washing machines at a local repair centre.
The graph also shows that there are economies of scale for the 36 kg wash, the larger machines using less water and less energy. In theory, this would also lead to less detergent use.
For small families, it is not possible to compare water and time from the graph, as it related specifically for a family of four.
In every case, it is important that the machines are run only
when full, unless the machine has a variable volume control. And many machines
while they may have variable wash volumes, they use the same volume of water for
rinsing irrespective of wash volume.
Using data from Choice (ACA, 2006) the price of some machines could be found (as at June 2006) and these were matched against the volume of water used to wash 36 kg (a family of four). The graph TL-C2 shows the wash time (red, use right hand side scale), water consumption (blue, use left hand side scale) and the price of the washing machine (use X axis).
There are machines that will use low energy, low water and can be bought for less than $1000.
From TL-C1 and TL-C2 it is not possible to identify the machine make or model. You will need to visit the WELS site to find that data. Please do not contact Lanfax Labs as we will not identify the makes and models for you.
These graphs are design to show that choices can be made that suit our individual needs.
The data used to prepare these graphs were accessed from the WELS website in August 2006 and checked again in November 2006. An update on the star-ratings was made on 6 January 2007.
TOO MANY UNANSWERED QUESTIONS
The first one "Who profits from the misinformation?" is the most difficult to answer because from politicians to water and energy authorities, to importers and local white goods retailers, to those involved in so called 'standards' preparation, to regulatory and testing authorities, it seems that benefits accrue all along the way. The real losers are the individuals who have to pay on the belief that it is all good for the environment. I can save more water with my current top loading washing machine by using only full loads and by reducing the amount of clothes washing that is required. That's sometimes difficult where young kids are involved. But I can reduce the wastewater salinity by selecting appropriate detergents.
What are the hidden costs of water reduction? If the front loaders do not rinse as well at top loaders (see the data re-analysed from Choice data in Table 2), then the additional cost of itchy skin, skin rash, deteriorating clothes and highly saline wastewater are real NEGATIVES that are not being divulged to those who have a right to know.
Why is the advertising required for washing machines and washing products so pathetic? Why are there not the same requirement for "truth in labelling" that applies to other products? The only answer that keeps coming to mind is that there are very many vested interests in keeping that information from the public.
If you believe the advertising is okay, then why is powder laundry detergent sold by the kilogram and consumed by volume. That is such stupidity I cannot understand why the government fair trading departments are not onto it like a tonne of bricks. If you and I were to conspire such advertising the agencies would not be so lenient! I'm disgusted!
Rinse efficiency. What I don't understand is how 4-star front loading washing machines can use an average of 9.5 L/kg (7.2 to 10.3 L/kg) to wash and rinse clothes, while the 3-star top loaders use 13.7 L/kg average (12.5 to 13.7 L/kg). Why is such as small difference such a catastrophe? From where did Standards Australia derive their requirements for efficient machines? Did it have anything to do with wash and rinse efficiency? Or were the numbers derived by "consensus" among the committee? So will Standards Australia revise the Standard in line with the results of testing with 'real' detergents? Don't hold your breath!