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Savings Will Come Out in the Wash

Power Lines: California's energy crisis is hitting home. Electric bills are rising, and people are looking for ways to cut consumption and costs. This is the fifth in a series of energy-saving tips.

February 10, 2001|LYNN O'DELL

Remember Laundromat washers with the little round windows? They're back, but this time at home.

The tumbling tubs are called horizontal-axis machines and, in the world of residential energy savings, they're hot. The laundry-style models--always popular in Europe--use one-third the water of the vertical-axis machines most Americans use. And heating water accounts for as much as 90% of the energy use in washing machines.

A typical U.S. household does 400 loads of laundry per year at about 40 gallons per load, according to the federal government. At that rate, an H-axis model would save more than 10,000 gallons a year and the energy to heat it.

In a conventional machine, the tub is filled to keep clothes wet while an agitator moves the water around. An H-axis machine uses less water because the tub itself rotates and clothes tumble into the water. A faster spin rate means clothes spend less time in the dryer, too.

The catch, of course, is that H-axis machines cost more. At Yahoo Shopping (, they range from $700 for a 2.7-cubic-foot Frigidaire to $1,000 for a 2.9-cubic-foot Maytag Neptune.

Despite the higher price, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy says consumers could easily save $100 a year in water and energy costs, with the highest savings going to those with electric water heaters.

For more information, visit (go to products then clothes washers) and

* Send your questions or suggestions regarding energy use to Home Design, Los Angeles Times, Orange County edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626; or send e-mail to Please include your name and phone number.

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