A Whirlpool survey out this morning (Monday, February 23, 2009) shows:
- 84% of consumers choose energy – not water or time – as most important when it comes to home appliance efficiency.
- 72% of consumers actively look for the Energy Star label when making purchasing decisions.
When consumers were asked what elements would be a part of their dream kitchen, eco-efficient appliances were their top choice. But consumer understanding of the benefits varies by geneder, marital statues, etc.
Married or previously married consumers seem to understand eco-efficient appliance benefits better than singles:
- 77% of married consumers look for the Energy Star label when appliance shopping.
- 59% of unmarried consumers look for Energy Star.
“This survey points to several gaps – be they marital, gender, or generational – in energy-efficiency awareness,” said Michael Todman, president, Whirlpool North America.
- 71% of surveyed males, aged 35-44, are “more attuned” to high efficiency (HE) laundry products.
- 54% of females in the same age group are “more attuned” to HE laundry.
- 61% of married and 64% of previously married consumers said they understand what HE means in terms of laundry
- 51% of unmarrieds said they understand what HE laundry means.
Most in the 18-44 age group said they would have a high efficiency washer in their dream laundry room.
Among consumers aged 45+ the preference is for laundry appliances that are more ergonomically friendly.
Whirlpool points out that more appliances are being designed to cater to older users, which it sees as half the United States’ purchasing power. Pedestals raise the height for less bending, knobs are larger, and audible signals are louder.
The survey reports that 44% of consumers said they did not know if top-load washers use more energy than front-loaders, while 38% believe that they do. Whirlpool says this points to a need for clarity in communicating the benefits of HE machines to appliance buyers.
Even if half the consumer population still wants ease-of-use over efficiency, these results provide further evidence of a big shift in consumer attitudes about laundry appliances over the last 20 years.
A brief history…
Twenty years ago there weren’t a lot of high-efficiency washer options for American consumers. “High-efficiency” meant “horizontal-axis.” H-axis washers were commonplace in Europe but Americans were only used to seeing them in laundromats.
Front load washers were foreign and strange! I remember reading consumers commenting that front-loading looked “inconvenient” to use. What? It’s more convenient to take wet clothes out of a top-load washer and put them in a front-load dryer than to take the clothes out of the front of one appliance and move it directly into the front of the adjoining appliances? It never made sense to me.
It was pretty well accepted in the industry that a front-load, horizontal-axis washer was going to use a lot less water and a lot less energy than a typical, top-load washing machine. But American consumers didn’t see the POINT in paying extra for energy efficiency; laundry appliances weren’t seen as big energy hogs anyway.
And a washer wasn’t something that consumers cared about. It was one the same level as a water heater: it did its job reliably and when guests came over you shut the door to the utility room. Who cared about its energy use or, for that matter, how it looked?
Well, in fact, European consumers DID care. They often cared how it looked (laundry appliances were more often sitting out in kitchens) and how much energy it used (being greener earlier than most Americans). As a result the European consumer WAS willing to pay extra for a washing machine.
The appliance industry in the United States needed to foster the same attitude among its consumers. It took the industry a long time, but the effort was successful – helped by changing customer demographics and a global rise in overall environmental awareness.
It was a good thing to turn energy efficiency into a selling point for laundry appliances, but I never would have believed the industry could make American consumers care about how a washer LOOKS. I was wrong. Consumers gravitated to fresh laundry designs as much as to the technology.
For those users who still want a top-loading machine there are now high-efficiency washers in a top-load configuration (I still don’t get it, but hey).
A high-efficiency washer no longer means, by default, a horizontal axis washer.
Now the industry can get to work making on the lowly water heater…