Washing machines

A large part of the running costs for your washing machine comes from heating the water. Washing on a warm cycle uses 10 times as much energy as a cold wash - that's an extra 20 to 40 cents for every single wash.

 Choosing a washing machine

  • Select the right size for your needs - if you choose a machine that's too big, you'll be tempted to run it before it’s full. The most commonly used washing machines are in the 5.5 to 6.5kg range.
  • Check water usage as well as the energy rating - both figures can be found on the label. You can find a database of water star ratings for all clothes washers on the Australian Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards website.
  • Check spin performance - especially if you dry some or all of your clothes in a dryer. There are good and bad spin performers in both top and front loading models. Consumer NZ includes spin performance in their tests of washing machines.
  • Choose a model that offers economy - and cold wash cycles.
  • Check for auto-sensing or load size selection - so you're not using more water and energy than you need.

Search for washing machines - Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards website
Compare washing machines - Consumer NZ website

Top loaders versus front loaders

For many years top loading machines have been the most popular in New Zealand, but the European style front loader washing machine is becoming more common. There are some good reasons for switching over.

Top loaders

  • Generally faster washing times (typically 30 to 45 minutes).
  • Generally use more water, which means they use more energy on a warm wash.
  • Tend to wear clothes faster, especially impeller/agitator types.
  • Usually cheaper to purchase.
  • Generally have a range of cold washing options.
  • Generally have cold and hot water connection (this is cheaper to run for a warm wash if you have cheap, efficient water heating).

Front loaders

  • Generally slower washing times (typically 60 to 90 minutes).

  • Generally use less water, which means they use less energy on a warm wash.

  • Gentler on clothes and usually wash better, although all washers have to meet minimum wash performance standards.

  • Can be more expensive to purchase.

  • Many only have a cold water connection with internal water heating, and/or do not have a cold wash option.

Washing machine energy labels

All washing machines have energy rating labels which show you the star rating and energy consumption for a standard cold or warm wash. Many washing machines also carry labels that show water usage.

  • If you're comparing similar sizes and types of washing machines - the model with the most stars is cheapest to run.
  • If you're comparing different sizes or types of dryer - for example a standard washer/dryer versus condensing washer/dryer model, ignore the stars and look at the annual energy consumption numbers (kWh per year). The model with the lowest energy consumption is the best option for reducing running costs.

ENERGY STAR® qualified washing machines are super energy efficient. An ENERGY STAR qualified washing machine uses up to 45% less energy than non-qualified models, and they reduce the amount of water needed per wash cycle. Over a year you can expect to reduce water for washing clothes by more than 6,000 litres.

 ENERGY STAR qualified products

 ENERGY STAR retail partners

 Energy rating labels

Smart use of washing machines

  • Save energy by using cold water - do a warm wash every five loads or a hot wash every 10 loads to remove any dirt and detergent that may build up in your machine.
  • Wash a full load - rather than several smaller loads.
  • Dissolve powder detergents - before you add them to the washer. This is good for all wash temperatures and improves performance in cold water.
  • Adjust the water level - to suit your load size.
  • Use the 'suds save' option (if available) - which can save water and detergent if you’re washing more than one load. This is particularly useful if you aren't on mains water supply, but you need a large wash tub beside the machine to store soapy water.
  • Try to group clothes - by fabric, colour, and how dirty they are - for example wash a whole load of lightly soiled items with cold water, rather than adding a pair of overalls that need a heavier cycle and a warmer wash.