Keeping clothes clean is one of those domestic tasks we can't escape. Washing machines and dryers also happen to be two of a home's biggest energy guzzlers, using significant amounts of water and power for every load. The good news, however, is that the latest models are smarter than ever. Start by shopping for the most water- and energy-efficient machines, then look for the features that best suit your household's laundry needs.
New technologies have made washing machines more user-friendly and have dramatically reduced water and energy usage. For example, Miele claims the water consumption of its washing machines has been reduced by more than 40 per cent since 1990. Check the Water Efficiency and Labelling Scheme (WELS) ratings to compare the water usage of different brands and models, as well as the energy star rating. It's also a good idea to look for models that automatically sense the size of the load and use only the minimum amount of water needed to wash it efficiently.
"High-efficiency washers may cost more upfront but they will save you money in the long term," says James Brockhurst, sustainability expert and proprietor of The Good Guys store in Capalaba, Queensland.
There are two main types of dryers on the market - vented and condensing. Vented dryers blow out moist air as the clothes dry, so they need to be fitted with a duct leading outdoors or used with an exhaust fan. In condenser dryers, moisture extracted from wet laundry is drained away or collected in a tank, making this a good option for small or cupboard-style laundries.
Look for dryers with an autosensing feature, which senses when a load is dry and switches off the machine, as well as a high energy star rating. "Autosensing dryers save energy because they avoid over-drying clothes," says Brockhurst. "And every extra energy star saves 15 per cent on running costs."