Federal Efficiency Standards Result In Less Efficient Washers

As of January, the Department of Energy requires washer makers to use 21% less energy, but some makers are meeting the standards by decreasing how well their products actually wash clothes, according to Consumer Reports.

In several cases, companies achieved the “energy savings” is achieved by decreasing the water temperature. Two GE models actually made the clothes dirtier.

We’re all for reducing energy costs, but it should come in the form of increased efficiency, not decreased performance.

Dirty laundry [Consumer Reports via Marginal Revolution] (Thanks to Bullpen!)
(Photo: Jos




Edit Your Comment

  1. ChrisC1234 says:

    I actually just got a new frigidaire front loading washer, and I couldn’t be happier with it (even though I bought it at BestBuy… [gasp]). My clothes actually come out SMELLING much cleaner than they used to in my old washer. Also, on the Energy Guide, the washer is rated all the way at the left hand side (most energy efficient).

  2. JustAGuy2 says:

    CEI is a very pro-business, conservative thinktank, with a deregulatory spin. While they do some interesting work, they wouldn’t be my first choice for a completely unbiased assessment of the pluses and minuses of tighter energy rules for appliances.

  3. hubris says:

    How is the the DoE’s fault? Manufacturers can’t meet standards that are good for everyone, and we blame the agency responsible for setting these standards? I’m sure the manufacturer’s will love that.

  4. swalve says:

    Did the DoE require washer manufacturers to use less energy, or to make washers that use less energy?

    Maybe CR could tell us which machines clean better rather than pontificating on the reasons why? And maybe people would take consumers’ needs more seriously if the CEI wasn’t doing silly things like sending cartoon pictures of underpants to the DoE…

  5. killavanilla says:

    Another shocker.
    Reduce power and water consumption and the thing can’t function as well.
    who would have thunk….
    This brings me back to my buddy’s new place. He wanted to replace the terlets and no one could get him anything with any kind of decent flow rate.
    Yes, when you decrease power consumption and restrict water flow, there are consequences.

  6. gatopeligroso says:

    “Disgruntled consumers can send virtual dirty underwear to the Secretary of Energy”. How about we put the blame on the group that is trying to cut corners here. (The manufacturers who are getting around the spirit of the law.)

  7. Falconfire says:

    Its the toilet issue all over again.

    Everyone remembers that one right? When to decrease water usage toilets they made use so little water as to actually INCREASE water usage because you had to flush them 2-3 times.

  8. Phuturephunk says:


    Actually American Standard makes great toilets that can flush quite a bit on restricted water usage. Its all in the engineering.

  9. Buran says:

    @omerhi: Sure they can. They’re just being cheap.

  10. ptkdude says:

    @swalve: CR does say which washing machines worked the best. They ran a similar article in December or January, I believe; I used it when I bought my new dryer.

  11. forever_knight says:

    @Falconfire: that’s because the toilet designs were shitty (giggle). seriously though. low-flow toilets got a bad wrap because the first generation that made it to u.s. houses were really poor. now there are many options that work better than the high flow toilets.

  12. Buran says:

    @ptkdude: Point out where that information is contained in the story. I sure as hell didn’t see it.

  13. Murph1908 says:

    It’s still going to be a long time before I trust one enough to not do a first flush before the TP flush. Those first generation ones will be around for decades.

  14. junkmail says:

    @Phuturephunk: Nobody can compete with a Toto, the Cadillac of all sh*tters.


  15. FLConsumer says:

    @killavanilla: Not true… the washing machines which didn’t work are made by GE, who has never been known for making good washer. All they did to achieve energy efficient labels was to reduce water temperatures & the amount of water WITHOUT redesigning the washer to handle it. This is no different than the toilet manufacturers who reduced the size of their water tanks without redesigning the bowls to handle it.

    Front-load washers have been around for years, use less water & energy, AND clean clothes far better than the majority of the top loading washers out there. The true European front loaders (the 24″ models, not the 27″ models) can clean things that never got clean with regular washing. It’s not uncommon for friends to ask if they can bring over a load of socks or ask me to was their labcoats in my Bosch Axxis front-load washer because it’ll get out just about everything and make things as white as they used to be, without harsh chemicals.

    @Phuturephunk: Um, no thanks. My new home came with American Standard toilets, a notch or two above builder-grade, and they absolutely SUCKED. Or, more realistically, wouldn’t suck anything down. I became more well-versed with the plunger & closet auger than I ever cared to because of those things. Literally, I was having to plunge/snake out those toilets about 3-5 times a week. It was to the point that I asked guests to use the toilets at the athletic center clubhouse rather than mine. I ripped them out and put Toto Aquia dual-flush (0.9 gallon / 1.5 gallon) toilets in and haven’t touched a plunger or closet snake since, 9 whole months now. Then again, most of Toto’s toilets can suck down a whole roll of 2-ply Charmin Ultra with a single flush. I have Toto Pacifica 2-piece toilets at my other home which are also equally impressive in performance.

  16. FLConsumer says:

    @junkmail: Amen, brother! They’re not cheap, but I gladly paid it to be rid of my plunger & toilet snake.

  17. Ben Popken says:

    @JustAGuy2: The source of the information is Consumer Reports, not CEI.

  18. JustAGuy2 says:

    @Ben Popken:

    But the link to send Congress “dirty underwear,” which appears to have been removed since I posted, was from CEI.

  19. AcidReign says:

        I’ve been pretty happy with my 3-year-old Whirlpool top-loader. It does fine with all cold water and the permanent-press cycle for most of my stuff. I almost never use hot water anymore for the wash.

        Be careful snaking toilets out. In fact, don’t, unless there’s no other choice. You won’t like it if you chip the porcelain, and have a nasty, permanent rust-wound there! Plungers will fix most toilet clogs with proper technique. Get a good seal. And, pulling back forcefully can yank a clog back, and break the offending paperwad up nicely.

  20. FrankTheTank says:

    Once again we see that you can’t legislate solutions…

  21. JustAGuy2 says:


    Oh, of course you can. Just because there are unintended consequences sometimes, some legislative solutions don’t entirely solve the problem, and some are inefficient, doesn’t mean you can’t legislate solutions.

    That’s kind of like saying you can’t cure diseases because some people will die anyway, and some people will have allergic reactions to drugs.

  22. InThrees says:

    I think the Department of Energy should just cut right to the part where they mandate that washers actually CREATE energy and earn people money.

    It makes about as much sense and will result in about-as-clean clothes, I suspect.

  23. jrdnjstn78 says:

    Gross! I’d hate to have to look at those pictures!! hahahahaha

  24. Ola says:

    File this under “Nanny Government Regulations Don’t Actually Work”, Edition #16,574.

  25. skrom says:

    another example of damn environmentalists reducing the functionality of our products to “save the environment” Im sick of it! Almost every product we have today is inferior to the same thing in the 50’s because of the “environment” Im tired of hand dryers, low flow shower heads, , low flow anything, air conditioners not using freon, etc. I remember as a kid getting in my Grandmas car which was a 1053 or so Comet and the seats were so cold you could barely sit on them with shorts on, Now my brand new vehicle has air conditioning and if the sun is beating in the window Im lucky to get the air temp in the car down to 68 degrees. By the way there is no reason to conserve water, “hint, it never goes away” It just evaporates and comes back down as rain.

  26. FLConsumer says:

    @skrom: Efficiency *can* work…but it requires redesigning things to work properly, which many manufacturers aren’t willing to do. Not sure what type of car you’re driving, but with it being 96F outside yesterday, it was a chilly 61F inside my car yesterday (measured with a Fluke environmental thermometer). 2004 Infiniti. Hand dryers CAN work, but I’ll agree that most don’t. There’s a great one out there now by some Taiwan company which literally blows the water right off your hands. I saw the exact same unit in the UK with a Dyson label on it.

    Also, the US EnergyStar certification is purely voluntary by the manufacturers. The specs have absolutely no requirement for performance, just energy efficiency. In the UK, clothes washers are energy rated AND performance rated.

  27. skrom says:

    And how long did it take to get to 61 degrees. I bet it wasnt before you got to the end of the block

  28. Falconfire says:

    @forever_knight: thats because they are not as low a flow as they where originally. They revoked the standard and set it at a lower, but higher than it was level.

  29. E-Bell says:


    I like the cut of your jib.