Despite advances in the efficiency of laundry machines, there are still significant energy savings to be realized in the residential sector and even more so in the largely untapped commercial laundry sector, according to a white paper by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy and the Natural Resources Defense Council.
For about 20 percent of households in the country, clothes washing is done regularly at a laundromat or multifamily laundry room. Commercial machines, which are the norm in multifamily laundry rooms, are used much more frequently than residential units: almost four loads per day versus about one load per day). But only 32 percent of the commercial washers sold are efficient units—and as a result, the energy savings that can be realized from upgrading to more efficient commercial units are substantial, according to Saving Water and Energy through Clothes Washer Replacement in the Great Lakes Region.
Opportunities exist to create programs that target specific portions of these commercial laundry markets, according to the ACEEE and the NRDC. For example, single load, or “family size,” commercial washers that are primarily sold for multifamily laundry rooms can be replaced with more efficient units, reducing energy use by 30 percent. Additionally, incremental temperature pricing for water temperature settings can help laundromats or multifamily laundry rooms realize energy savings of 25-to-30 percent by providing customers with a price incentive to cut down on hot water washing, according to the white paper.
Opportunities also exist to extract additional savings from the residential sector, which is not fully saturated with efficient units (64 percent of units sold are Energy Star as of 2010). The TopTen USA and Energy Star Most Efficient lists, which designate the most efficient products among those that qualify for the Energy Star designation, are beginning to be used in some utility programs to offer rebates for only the most efficient products on the market.
Since clothes washer energy and water use varies significantly among units, even among those that qualify for the Energy Star list, the savings that can be realized from programs targeting only the most efficient units can be substantial. A TopTen USA residential clothes washer uses about 40 percent less energy and 50 percent less water than an already efficient Energy Star model.