The Energy Label for Washing Machines
The European Union Energy Label was introduced to allow consumers to factor in energy performance when purchasing new domestic appliances. Initially the label only applied to a small number of product groups, but with the ongoing implementation of the EU Energy-related Products Directive and Energy Labelling Directive, you will see the label appear on more and more electrical and electronic goods.
The current EU Energy Label for washing machines, which came into force in December 2011, ranges from A+++ (most efficient) to D (least efficient), as shown. The annual energy consumption shown on the label is based on 220 standard wash cycles for cotton programmes at 60°C and 40°C at full and partial load.
The label also displays a separately measured spin drying efficiency (rated between A and G) and the annual water consumption of the machine shown in litres per annum. As with the annual energy consumption, this is based on 220 standard wash cycles for cotton programmes at 60°C and 40°C at full and partial load.
For the most efficient models, look out for the darkest green band. Our Topten ranking is based on the official Energy Efficiency Index which shows the differentiation within the top label class(es).
Comparing energy use of old and new, highly energy-efficient appliances
To replace or not to replace? Knowing exactly when to replace an appliance, especially one that is still working, can be difficult.
Generally, older washing machines will consume more energy than a new, highly energy-efficient one, as EU regulations setting limits to energy use have come into effect. On average, washing machines sold in 1990 used 31% more energy than those available today. 
Actual energy consumption can vary considerably from model to model however, Which? calculated the annual energy costs of 216 washing machines and found they vary between £12 and £47 per year (based on washing four loads a week at 40°C). 
Monitoring the energy usage of your current appliance
You may find it useful to monitor the actual energy consumption of your washing machine. This can be done using a plug-in energy-usage meter. This is plugged into the socket and the appliance is plugged into the meter. Monitoring electricity usage for a month, or even a week, allows you to gain an idea of the annual consumption.
Bear in mind, you may use your washing machine more frequently at certain times of the year, such as the school holidays. So ensure you perform the test during a time that represents your typical usage.
The EU Energy Label shows the average annual electricity use of appliances.So you can easily find out how your washing machine fares compares to a new model before committing to a purchase.
What size washing machine?
If you are planning to buy a new washing machine, picking a drum size that best suits your needs will ensure no energy and water is wasted. Drum sizes available range from 5.5kg to 11kg.
The average household does more thanfive washes a week. A single-person household will have smaller individual loads than a family, so a smaller drum would be appropriate. A family or multi-person household may be able to reduce the number of washes needed by using a machine with a large drum and save water, energy and money in the process.
In any case, look out for the Energy Label – the best performing models on the market will be rated A+++ and you can see the average annual energy and water consumption on the label.
How to get your appliance to perform most efficiently
Load it up. Always wait until you have a full load before putting on a wash - two half-loads will use more energy than a single full load.
Wash at 30°C. Washing clothes at 30 degrees, rather than at higher temperatures, uses around 40% less energy. Many modern washing powders and detergents are designed to clean clothes effectively at lower temperatures, allowing you to save energy in the process.
Turn it off when you’re done. Make sure your machine is turned off properly when you’ve finished your wash. If any lights are on, then the machine will still be using electricity.
What else you can do to save energy and money
Don’t wash unnecessarily. Try to minimise unnecessary washing by hanging up clothes to air after wearing them. This enables you to get the maximum use out of each item before needing to wash it.
Dry it outside. If the weather is fine, dry your washing outside. It’ll dry much quicker than you’d expect and will smell great too.
Spin to the max. If you use a tumble dryer, spin your clothes first. The less moisture they hold before drying, the less you will have to use the more energy-hungry tumble dryer.
 Domestic energy consumption in the UK since 1970, DECC Factsheet, July 2012
 Which?, http://www.which.co.uk/home-and-garden/laundry-and-cleaning/guides/washing-machine-energy-costs/, accessed November 2012