Indesit Co. (Fabriano, Italy; www.indesitcompany.com) recruited Italian designer Giugiaro to create the simple, stylish look of its new Prime appliance line. The 8-kg Prime washer automatically optimizes water use, energy consumption, and wash time based on the weight of the load.
There was a time when horizontal axis washers were the
choice for high efficiency. “Historically, front-load laundry pairs
have led the industry in capacity and efficiency,” said Mary Zeitler,
home economist, Whirlpool Institute of Fabric Science.
in markets like the United States, consumers were accustomed to
top-load washers. As energy efficiency became more important to
consumers, OEMs began to innovate. New ways of washing came to market
in the form of high-efficiency units that load from the top as well as
Some consumers are not aware that
their high-efficiency options go beyond front-load machines. Whirlpool
Corp. (Benton Harbor, MI, U.S.; www.whirlpool.com) found evidence of
this early 2009 when it commissioned a survey of U.S. consumers. The
survey found that 40% of respondents believe that top-loaders use more
energy than front-loaders. At one time that was accurate, but no longer.
more families look to save on energy, water, and utility costs, it is
important to understand that HE washers, whether in a top-load or
front-load configuration, can deliver unmatched efficiency, saving time
and money in the laundry room,” Zeitler said.
interest in laundry appliance efficiency varies by demographics.
Consumers in the 18–44 age bracket call a high-efficiency washer a
“must have” in their dream laundry room. For consumers older than 45,
“must have” laundry appliances are more ergonomically friendly laundry
appliances. OEMs like Whirlpool have developed laundry appliances that
satisfy both priorities.
Whirlpool now offers
two top-load washing machines, the Cabrio HE washer and an updated
Whirlpool Classic conventional washer, that are Energy Star qualified,
as well as selling the front-loading Duet model. Whirlpool Corp.’s
Maytag brand achieves high efficiency with its Bravos washer, which
operates without an agitator.
Other OEMs are
also reaching Energy Star efficiency levels with top-load designs.
Fisher & Paykel (Auckland, New Zealand; www.fisherpaykel.com)
developed its direct-drive laundry drive motor, called SmartDrive, in
the early 1990s, which enabled it to launch some of the most highly
efficient top-load washers in the world. Today, the company’s
top-loaders still use the latest generation of the SmartDrive to
achieve Energy Star efficiency levels.
Appliances (Louisville, KY, U.S.; www.ge.com) developed top-load,
high-efficiency washers that save water and energy with a unique
rinsing system called RainShower. The system rinses clothes by
showering them with water instead of soaking them in rinse water. The
result is a water savings of up to 15 gal for each load of laundry.
as OEMs are engineering laundry appliances that offer new benefits
without changing familiar configurations, they are also designing new
solutions to old laundry problems.
Purdue University student Louis Filosa was a finalist in the 2009 Electrolux Design Lab competition with her laundry appliance concept called Renew, which uses two steam blades to “blast” garments clean.
Washing Today and Tomorrow
are some types of clothing—like wool sweaters—that simply should not go
into a standard tumble dryer. Woolen sweaters and delicate garments are
typically laid flat and allowed to air-dry. For a heavy wool sweater,
air-drying can be a two-day process. Electrolux (Stockholm, Sweden;
www.electrolux.com) says 92% of consumers have difficulties with drying
woolen garments, and the company went out to develop a solution. The
appliance it developed is the Calima, the first washing machine with an
extendable drying board to quickly dry clothes flat. Users can take the
sweater out of the washing machine and place it on the drying board,
choosing the type of fabric and temperature setting. Fans blow warm air
through openings in the panel to dry the garment. The user turns the
garment once and it is dry in 60 minutes. It can be used to dry various
delicate garments or standard garments that the user needs to wear in a
Project manager Salvatore Valenti calls
it a “consumer insight–driven machine” and says when tested with target
consumers it “…is seen as addressing a real need and adding real value
to the washing machine and laundry process.” The Calima launched in
France and Central East Europe in March and April this year and is
scheduled to roll out in Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Russia, and
There are other technologies making their way into laundry appliances that, not long ago, would have seemed highly unlikely.
don’t normally get much attention when it comes to energy efficiency
initiatives. In the United States, in fact, there is no Energy Star for
clothes dryers. According to the Energy Star program, “there is little
difference in energy use between (dryer) models.” Industry, government,
and even environmental advocates have often put dryer efficiency
standards low on the priority list. Better water extraction at the end
of the wash cycle, for example, is often seen as a more promising
avenue for improving the efficiency of the drying process than is any
practical improvement to the appliance that actually does the drying.
now technologies are emerging that challenge the idea that dryer
efficiency can’t be significantly improved. In Gütersloh, Germany,
engineers with appliance OEM Miele (www.miele.com) have integrated
heat-pump technology into a clothes dryer as a way to reduce energy
consumption. The EcoComfort operates on the principle of two closed
circuits: the process air circuit and the cooling circuit. The cooling
circuit has two functions. First, heat energy is transferred to process
air and, secondly, residual heat from the drying process is recovered,
both helping to make the unit exceptionally energy-efficient.
unit launched with Europe’s A rating for energy efficiency and Miele
says that, in fact, the unit is almost 40% more economical than
required for an A rating. The unit saves up to 46% energy and CO2
compared with conventional condenser dryers with a B rating. The dryer
is also marketed in Australia, where the model T 8627 WP EcoComfort
earned a 6-star energy rating and launched as the most energy-efficient
condenser dryer on the market in Australia. While the technology gives
the heat-pump dryer a premium price, Miele estimates a 3.5-year payback
for Australian buyers.
have been reducing the energy consumption of household appliances year
after year, for decades. Energy-efficiency standards and rating systems
haven’t always kept up. For the last 15 years, domestic appliance
manufacturers in Europe have generally been on pace to increase the
efficiency of their products by 20% every four years (without
corresponding retail price increases). Europe’s energy rating system,
which gives appliances a grade of A through G, became inadequate when a
growing percentage of appliances on the market qualified for, and
exceeded to a growing degree, the minimum level of the A rating.
fix for the problem in Europe was adopted by the European Union in
March 2009. The upgraded energy efficiency labeling system, for
household refrigerators and freezers as well as washing machines, keeps
the familiar A-to-G energy efficiency label while allowing appliances
surpassing the Class A criteria to be classified by the level of their
additional savings. Ratings such as A-20%, A-40%, etc., give consumers
straightforward information about the efficiency of the appliance.
CECED, the European household appliance manufacturers’ association,
welcomed the new label scheme and also approved of plans by the
Committee on Ecodesign and Energy Labeling of Energy using Products
(EuP) to phase Class A washing machines out of the market by 2013. “The
fact that the Committee has already identified dates when Class A
appliances will be taken out of the market indicates how urgently we
needed a new energy label layout,” said Luigi Meli, CECED director
general. “We are pleased to now have a tool that will support our
efforts to continue improving the energy efficiency of our products
well beyond Class A.”
In the United States,
energy efficiency has been spurred by the success of the Energy Star
program, developed jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
and the U.S. Department of Energy to help consumers easily pick out
products that offer energy-efficiency levels substantially higher than
the minimum standards.
standards for Energy Star qualification are adjusted as minimum
energy-efficiency standards are updated. In fact, clothes washer Energy
Start criteria changed as of July 1 of this year.
of July 2009, the federal washing machine standard calls for a minimum
Modified Energy Factor (MEF) of 1.26. The MEF is intended to take into
account the amount of dryer energy needed to remove the remaining
moisture content in washed items.
new Energy Star requirements, washers should have a minimum MEF of 1.8
(up from 1.72 before July 1). Energy Star washers must also have a
maximum water factor (WF) of 7.5 (the maximum was 8.0 before July 1).
Water factor is the amount of water used in the appliances, measured in
gallons per cycle per cubic foot.
federal standard for washing machines, and the requirements for Energy
Star rated washing machines, will both change on Jan. 1, 2011. The
federal standard will continue to require a minimum MEF of 1.26 but
will add a WF requirement of 9.5 maximum. To qualify for the Energy
Star logo after Jan. 1, 2011, washing machines will need to have a
minimum MEF of 2.0 and a maximum WF of 6.0.
OEMs will continue to drive down washer and dryer energy consumption,
even as they seek to bring new ease of use capabilities to laundry
AHAM is developing an industry test procedure to determine clothes washer drum useful volume.