Colin over at No Impact Man wrote a post yesterday examining decisions about when to turf old appliances and replace them with newer energy-efficient models. I know our washing machine sucks kilowatts like candy and have been hoping for a couple of years that I'd find a way to justify purchasing a new one.
No Impact Man's fairly crude calculations are based on the idea of "embodied energy" -- the energy put into an object during its manufacturing. His calculations simplify things a lot, using the embodied energy stats for 100% steel. He applies this, by weight, to common major appliances. An laundry washer would have embodied energy thus calculated of about 825 kWh.
Well, that's good news for me, I guess. Because I happen to know, based on research at Energuide Canada, that our circa 1993 extra capacity top-loader is an energy pig. Its energy consumption is in the range of 750 kwH/year. A swanky candy apple red LG front-loader uses a piddly 167 kwH/year. So its embodied energy will be repaid easily within a year and a half.
But the two grand purchase price? That would take about forty years to repay through savings at today's electricity prices. So maybe we'll need to settle for a much less expensive unit, in something boring like, oh, white.
However, the reality is that we'll probably keep using our energy pig until something goes wrong. And in the meantime, in my dreams my front loader will be red.