August 24, 2017

Consumer Reports’ Best Washer & Dryer Pairs — The Sequel

Enervee data reveal how these picks stack up on energy consumption

Written by
Anne Arquit Niederberger

In July 2017, Consumer Reports published an updated list of 22 well matched, highly rated washers and dryers in two groups, those that cost less than $1,700 and those that scored “very good” or better in noise tests.

We were curious to see how these picks performed on energy, based on the Enervee Data Engine, our daily-updated consumer product market intelligence platform, and this is what we found.

For the washers recommended by Consumer Reports:

  • The most efficient models are all front loaders, with the exception of the two models with spin speeds above 1000 rpm, a key factor in washer efficiency.
  • On average, the front loaders consume slightly more than the average for all front loaders on the market [1] — and a whopping 44% less than the recommended top loaders.
Characteristics of products recommended by Consumer Reports (CR) and online offer averages (July 2017)

In case of both front and top loaders, the CR picks on average steered consumers towards more efficient models than the universe of models with current online offers. However, because the CR list included larger capacity washers than the overall market (4.2 ft3), their average consumption was about 8% higher.

  • Without naming names, the model that was the biggest energy hog in CR’s washer list consumes over 3X more electricity than the most efficient top loaders. It should be noted that the same brand offers much more efficient models, such as the Maytag MHW5500FW front loader, which costs $90 more, yet consumes only 25% as much electricity, cutting energy bills by $420 over the lifetime of the product (at the national average electricity rate of $0.13/kWh).

Our advice? If you want to avoid throwing energy, water and money down the drain, buy a front-load washer, or be very picky about which top loader you select.

  • Enervee’s best retail prices for the CR list of washers averaged $803 (with a range of $400–$1714). The CR prices on a given model ranged from 23% lower than the best retail price offer on July 27th to as much as 25% higher [2]. Large day-to-day price fluctuations are to be expected; on Enervee Marketplace, shoppers can set price drop alerts to do the heavy lifting.

Turning to dryers, these appliances consume much more energy than washers do and can have a noticeable effect on energy bills. There are three basic types of electric dryers available on the US market: (i) those that rely on conventional dryer technology and vent hot, moist air out of the house after it passes through the machine (most common and least efficient), (ii) ventless condensing dryers and (iii) heat pump dryers.

The vast majority of dryers on the US market are vented and rely on conventional technology, and there is only a 5% difference in dryer energy consumption between the 90th (641 kWh/y) and 10th percentile (607 kWh/y) of all 260 models with current offers, while the corresponding price range is much larger ($1,255 to $503).

In fact, there’s no correlation between price and consumption or efficiency among full-size dryers on the US market, so it pays to shop around. That having been said, there is little difference in rated efficiency among most vented models, but the most efficient dryers (with heat pump technology) start at around $1000.

Analysis of Consumer Reports’ dryer recommendations reveal that:

  • All 22 models recommended by CR are conventional vented dryers and have an average annual consumption of 619 kWh/y, slightly less than the average across all 260 models with current offers (628 kWh/y)[1].
  • Similar to the case for washers, the dryer prices quoted by Consumer Reports were not statistically different than the total market average of $857, based on current retail offers, given high retail price differences (standard deviation of $300).
  • The most efficient heat pump models consume between 12% and 17% less than the models in the CR list. However, the selection of heat pump dryers on the US market remains limited to only a handful of models, none of which are priced at the lower end of the price spectrum [3]. Nonetheless, if you are willing to fork out at least $1000 for your new dryer, heat pump models can deliver significant savings relative to conventional models in the same price range.

The Whirlpool heat pump model WED7990FW, for example, is available for just over $1000 and uses 16% less energy than conventional models in the CR list currently priced between $1,020 and $1,796. Another example of more efficient models that can be had without a price premium. And prices for the advanced dryers are likely to drop as the market for them grows.

Consumers should also consider the following when dryer shopping:

  • The current Federal test procedure (which went into effect in 2014) unfortunately doesn’t provide an accurate estimate of a clothes dryer’s real world energy consumption. Lab and field research demonstrate that dryers consume significantly more energy in the real world than the federal test procedure predicts. This is due in part to the fact that the test laundry load defined by the Department of Energy is composed of identical thin cotton sheets which are much easier to dry than the more complex items and textiles typically put into clothes dryers.

But the actual, in-home consumption of clothes dryers, with their large and distinct load profile, are among the electricity loads that lend themselves to estimation from load disaggregation techniques. Such devices and apps will be featured on Marketplaces powered by Enervee later this year and will allow visitors to share their data for more accurate estimates of potential savings from new product purchases compared with the appliance they’re using now.

  • Gas dryers are also available and, when taking into account source energy, are generally a more efficient option than electric dryers operating on grid electricity, due to large generation, transmission and distribution losses associated with the latter. Unless you lack gas supply and obtain your electricity from rooftop PV or other renewable sources, gas could be the better option for your next dryer.

Will they come?

Beyond Consumer Reports’ trusted stamp of approval, the examples laid out above illustrate why consumers will benefit from being able to compare product efficiency, actual retail prices and potential energy bill impacts of individual product model choices in real time, as they shop.

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But will they make such comparisons? Or is this just all too complicated to care about?

The jury is still out, but Enervee Marketplace boils behavioral science insights and vast market data down to a product card view that we have reason to believe will make energy-smart shopping simple and compelling for everyone.

You can try it yourself. Go to Enervee Marketplace to research your next product purchase, save your favorite models, receive price drop alerts, and sign up for rebates!


  1. Based on Enervee offer data for 24 July 2017 (washers) and 6 August (dryers); the site is updated daily.
  2. Consumer Reports did not indicate on which day they determined the prices reported in their article. On the date that we checked washer (dryer) prices, we found no current retail offers on 4 (2) of the models in the CR list, so used the last known price for those.
  3. On, you can identify heat pump dryers by looking for those that have Energy Scores of 100.

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