Saves electricity, saves water, saves carbon, saves money! This action is easy … just press that little ECO button on your washing machine and dishwasher. ECO could mean either “economy” or “ecology” here – both go hand in hand with this one.
Unless you are dealing with very heavily soiled washing, or very heavily baked-on greasy cookware, there really should be no reason to use your machine at the normal settings, so why not make ECO your new normal?
Some surveys suggest that only around 1 in 5 of us ever use the eco option on a dishwasher. Perhaps it’s a little bit of mistrust – concern that perhaps you won’t get such good results – but we urge you to try it at least. We believe you won’t notice any difference and that you can expect a decent result from using your washing machine or dishwasher on eco mode and/or at a lower temperature.
What is ‘ECO mode’?
Remember, the hotter the water gets in your machine, the higher the energy consumption. The various settings on your dishwasher are different combinations of water temperature, water amount, and the time the machine runs.
ECO mode is just a program that uses less water and lower temperatures so that a lot less energy is required for heating, while still making sure dirt is removed properly. Modern washing and dishwashing powders and liquids also aid this, they are much improved in recent years.
Any reduction in cleaning intensity from the heat is more than offset by a longer wash. The machine running for longer takes far less additional electricity than is saved from the heating, which uses much, much more power.
Do ECO modes really help save carbon emissions?
Independent testing has confirmed that the ECO mode delivers the lowest energy consumption across different brands and models. Typically the saving is 20–30%. This is a significant saving in energy, carbon emissions, and of course your electricity bill.
It’s also worth knowing that similar tests have shown that:
- Fast clothes washing programs increase energy use by 30–100%
- Machine temperatures higher than 30°C increase energy use by 30–100%
- Tumble dryers without an auto-off sensor use 25% more energy
- 90% of a washing machine’s energy use is heating the water
- Using a cold or low temperature wash will deliver significant energy savings
- The agitation and soaking during a longer wash cycle doesn’t use much electricity
- A rapid hot wash (dishwasher or washing machine) will devour much more electricity
General advice to use less energy and save carbon emissions
- Choose a machine with A, A+ or A++ energy rating
- Use the ECO options by default (this action!)
- Wash only full loads
- Scrape plates clear (cleaner machines are more efficient)
- Clean your machine regularly
- Use an effective modern detergent (ideally an eco-friendly brand)
- Use delay timers to make use of off-peak tariffs
- Front loading washing machines use much less energy and water than top loaders
- Avoid a tumble dryer if you can, line drying can be a massive saving in good weather
Why is this important?
Reducing energy use is paramount if we are to get carbon emissions under control and have any chance of limiting global warming. Any reduction in energy demand, especially at peak times, reduces the need for our electricity companies to generate power using fossil fuels, thus limiting the emissions of CO2, methane, and other pollutants.
Reducing the amount of water used in our machines will help to protect this valuable resource. Unfortunately, we take water for granted in many countries, but even in countries where water is easily on tap, reservoirs and aquifers struggle in the summer months and our water tables are much lower than they should be, with detrimental effects on our plants and wildlife.
As well as saving on energy use and so carbon emissions, this action will:
- reduce the use of water
- reduce your water and electricity bills
- reduce wear on your appliance, so it will last longer
- reduce wear on your clothing, so it will last longer
- protect the colours in your clothing
- It’s another no-brainer really, wouldn’t you agree?