New front-loading washing machines are more efficient and environmentally friendly than traditional top-loading models.
They also cost twice as much.
Starting today, though, the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (NEEA) is offering a $130 rebate to anyone buying a high-efficiency front-loader from a participating dealer.
As with earlier utility-subsidized rebates on compact-fluorescent lights and natural-gas water heaters, the idea behind NEEA’s WashWise program is to nudge consumers toward unfamiliar technology that, in the long run, will save money for consumers and utilities alike.
A total of 2,785 rebates are available through Dec. 31.
Manufacturers estimate a typical family will save $100 a year in soap, water and clothes-drying costs with a new front-loading washer.
Another benefit of front-loaders is that they have about 30 fewer moving parts, so they should last longer than conventional washers and require less maintenance.
So why do front-loading washers account for only 2 percent of the U.S. market?
Until recently, most front-loaders were manufactured in Europe and cost as much as $2,000 (compared to $400-$500 for the average American top-loader). Further reducing their competitive edge were their smaller capacity and longer wash cycles.
But American manufacturers, prodded by the U.S. Energy Department, have developed full-size front-loaders that cost $800 to $1,000, and take only slightly longer to wash clothes.
Jim Reese, who sells washers at Sears’ NorthTown store, says Frigidaire’s new $799 Gallery front-loader represents less than 10 percent of his washer sales, but its popularity is growing.
Reese particularly encourages customers on wells or septic systems to consider the Gallery because, like other new front-loaders, it uses about 40 percent less water and 60 percent less soap than top-loaders.
Besides Frigidaire, other manufacturers of WashWise-approved front-loaders include Maytag, Gibson, Amana, ASKO, Creda, Miele and Staber.
Sears is one of many area appliance dealers participating in the rebate program. Others already signed up in Eastern Washington include Fred’s Appliance, Home Innovations, Lloyd’s, Prudential Builders, Tri State, University Appliance, Zig’s, Smitty’s, Riddle’s, and Main Street Appliance in Colville.
North Idaho participants include Cope’s Appliance Club, Zig’s, Largents, Howard Hughs Appliance, Atlas, and Karli’s TV and Appliance.
The Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance has 140 members in Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oregon, including the region’s private utility companies and public utility districts.
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