The average family washes a whopping 300 loads of laundry per year, reports the Energy Star website. With so much activity in the laundry room, your choice of washing machines can have a significant impact on energy costs, water consumption and your bottom line. While front-loading washers were traditionally known for their performance and efficiency, new technology allows top-loading machines to provide many of these same benefits.
Old-school top-loaders relied on a central agitator to move clothes around inside the machine. While you can still find these washers, modern high-efficiency top-loaders eliminate the agitator thanks to technology that rotates and spins clothes through smaller jets of water. Getting rid of the agitator not only frees up room so you can wash larger loads but also reduces wear and tear on clothes so they look better and last longer. Washing clothes sans agitator also reduces water and energy use, which cuts costs and may help clothes dry more quickly, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
To quickly and easily compare the energy used by top-loading washers, check out the modified energy factor. This piece of information can be found in the specs for every major washing machine. The higher the value of the MEF, the more efficient the washer. The most efficient top-loaders on the DOE's Energy Star certified product list have an MEF of around 3.2 as of 2014. For even greater efficiency and higher MEF ratings, consult the Consortium for Energy Efficiency's certified product list, which goes beyond Energy Star requirements to reveal the most efficient appliances on the market. Under the CEE system, products listed as Tier 3 are the most efficient.
The DOE estimates that older top-loading washers use 23 gallons of water per load, compared to just 15 gallons for modern machines. To compare water usage when shopping for a washer, look for the Water Factor, which indicates how many gallons the machine uses per cubic foot of capacity. The lower the WF, the less water the machine requires. Some of the best-rated top-loaders on the DOE's Energy Star certified products list have a WF of 2.9 as of 2014. The CEE has some models that go even lower.
Consumer Reports recommends washers with stainless steel drums. These drums allow for maximum spin speed, which reduces energy use and cuts drying time. Stainless steel or plastic drums also eliminate potential problems with rust, which can plague porcelain-coated drums if the surface gets chipped or scratched.
A 2013 article by Consumer Reports reveals that front-loaders are often quieter than top-loaders, but some of the magazine's top-rated top-loaders score very well on noise tests. To minimize noise, Consumer Reports recommends the LG WT1101CW or the Samsung WA422PRHD[WR].