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7 Ways to Save Energy With a Top Load Washer

It's Easy to Reap Energy Savings With a Traditional Top Loading Washer

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Feeling a little left out of the high-efficiency laundry community?  Maybe your budget just can't be squeezed any more to upgrade to an HE washer or new full-frilled front loader.  Don't worry, even with a traditional top load washer that's not high-efficient, nor Energy Star rated, you can still reap some substantial energy savings and that means lower electricity and water bills.  All you need is a few simple steps and your new energy-saving regimen will pay off.

If you are saving to buy a new washer, check out my buying tips to ensure you get the best value in terms of energy savings, efficiency and convenience.  And in the meantime, enjoy some washer energy savings and feel good about your green endeavors and the money you'll save.

1. Water Temperature - Keep it Mostly Cool

Most top load washers have various water settings that allow you to chose the appropriate temperature for each wash.  To save energy, chose cold water for most washloads and use appropriate cold-water detergents that dissolve better in cooler water temperatures.  When using cold water, I've found that liquid detergents dissolve better and leave no soapy residue on dark clothing, which some powdered detergents tend to do.

Always rinse in cold water, regardless of the wash cycle chosen. Delicates, permanent press casuals and good clothing actually lasts longer and retain their good looks, if washed and rinsed in cold water. You may still want to wash in hot water such things as bedding and towels, but only doing one or two loads in hot water and the rest in cold, will result in some very good energy savings.

Properly sorting clothing is one step that enables you to better chose the best temperature for each load.  If you're the type that just throws everything into the wash together, you may want to develop some sorting skills - it goes a long way to help clothing last longer and makes it easier when it comes to chosing the right water temperature, as well as spin cycles.

2. Appropriate Water Levels to Conserve Water

Being able to pick the appropriate water level for each washload is a nice feature of the traditional top load washer, though some models do have limited choices.  The ideal top load washer will have at least three water level options.  Use the lowest water level for washing small loads and chose appropriate levels for the rest of your laundry.  This will result in saving energy by using less hot or warm water, as well as conserving water - for even more savings.  Using lower water levels will also usually shorten the length of the cycle (reduced fill), which can be helpful for the busy homemaker.

High effeciency washers on the other hand do not allow the consumer much choice when it comes to water levels - all cycles use low levels. And that's not always what is needed.  So being able to pick the appropriate water level is an ideal way to save energy with a top load washer.

If all of your washloads are tiny, you may also want to consider downsizing to a portable compact washer, which uses less water and energy and may be more suitable for your laundry needs.  This is the ideal space-saving laundry appliance for tiny residences.

3. Wash Cycle Duration - Appropriate for a Clean Wash

While some traditional top load washers have more preset cycles than others, it's usually much easier to use shorter washing times than with a front load washing machine.  Use appropriate wash cycles for the load you are washing.  Avoid using a long regular cycle for every load; be selective to shorten where you can.  Lightly-soiled casuals should be done on a shorter cycle, but towels, bedding, underwear and socks usually need a longer cycle.

Things that only need a little 'refreshing' like seasonal clothing that was cleaned prior to storage, may only need a rinse and spin. You can also presoak heavily-soiled clothing overnight, which in turn will require a shorter washload to ensure a clean wash. So use the wash cycle that is appropriate for what you are washing or rinsing.

Wash cycles on front load or top load high-efficiency washers tend to be very long, much longer than with traditional top loaders.  That's because of the extremely low water levels - the washer needs more time to get the wash clean.  With a standard top loader, you don't need to worry about those long cycles and can chose what is appropriate for every load.

4. Detergent and Fabric Softener - Cut Down of Measure

Manufacturers will provide guidelines for use of their detergent formulas and these are generally based on average washloads.  Clear markings are usually indicated in the bottle cap of most (liquid) detergents.  However, most consumers tend to pour which can often lead to more being used than is really necessary. With powdered detergents, there's a tendency to 'top up' or mound the measuring cup, which is a waste.

I've also found that there are substantial savings to be had if you cut down on both detergent and fabric softener.  This does take a little experimenting, but it's worth it. Some washloads are not as soiled as others, requiring less laundry soap than the average guidelines say you need, for a clean wash. 

Sometimes a little prewash stain remover can help to get tough stains out, rather than adding more detergent in the hope that it makes the wash cleaner.  Take time to measure or find a detergent and fabric softener level that works for your washing to ensure that your laundry is clean, but you save money by reducing a little here and there.  And remember that each washload varies in terms of soil and stains. Make sure your family is also aware of these possible savings, so pouring indiscrimanately, stops.

5. Spin Cycles - Set the Stage for Dryer Energy Savings

On a traditional top load washer, spin cycles are often tied into the type of wash cycle you chose, but sometimes you can manually chose the speed or strength of spin you want.  For bedding, towels and regular clothing items, chose a high spin that will extract the most water from your washload - that will take less time drying and save energy.

Delicates, handwash and good clothing should be either on a low or medium spin cycle, to reduce the presence of wrinkles and ironing time.  Permanent press washer cycles will usually have a medium spin and delicates - a low spin.  Items like sweaters which will be laid flat or hung to dry, should be spun at low. Some delicate items are best washed by hand and dried on the line or laid flat. The type of spin cycle will influence drying time, as well as dictate how much time will be needed to iron or press clothing to get it to the ready-to-wear stage.

6. Washer Loads - Keep Them Reasonable; Avoid Overloading

In an effort to save time and energy there's often a tendency to overload  the washer and sometimes, we also do a washload for only two or three items, which can be a waste of energy.  If you want to save energy - electricity and water as well as time, keep your washloads reasonable and healthy.

An overloaded washer will not likely do a good cleaning of your washload and adding more detergent is not going to help.  Overstuffing is unhealthy for your washer and can over time cause some balance problems and put undue strain on your washing machine, increasing repair bills and shortening its life cycle.  And when you wash an oversize load, you will want to dry that load, which will also eventually cause problems with a regular capacity dryer.  An overstuffed load takes longer (more energy) to dry than an appropriate one.

Instead, divide your washloads so they are appropriate for the size of washer you have. When you have one or two things that need to be washed, if you can, delay these a few days until you can make the load count. If you can't wait, make sure to use a low water level that's appropriate for what you have in the washer.

Always keep your washloads appropriate to what your washer was designed to handle.  If your family has grown substantially since you bought your washer, consider upgrading to an extra-capacity washer.  This may also allow you to combine two small loads into one for even more savings. 

Top load washers do wear down over time - a condition that most often goes unnoticed, until you upgrade and realize that the newer top loader spins out much more water than the older washing machine did.  This allows you to further save energy when drying that washload, because it will dry more quickly.

7. Delay Washing if On Time-of-Use (TOU) Electricity Rates

If you are on a smart meter and time-of-use electricity rates, you can save energy by delaying your laundry chores.  Some traditional top load washers have delay start - which is a great convenience feature, but if your washer is not so equipped, just pick a good time of the day or evening when your electricity rates are cheaper - mid peak or off peak times.  This may mean doing a little reorganizing, breaking up your wash and doing a load every evening, or on the weekends, rather than doing laundry all the same day.

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