Monday, May 12, 2008

Embodied energy

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.


  1. The other thing is... I have an acquaintance who is an appliance repair man and he says that because of plastic parts and parts made in China, sealed units, etc., that these new 'energy efficient' models only last 2 - 5 of years before they are broken beyond repair. I mean when i got mine in 1991, they came with a 10 year warranty. That tells you something. These new ones usually only come with a 1 year warranty.

  2. Good luck with your old washer! My neighbor just got this exact model! I am sooo jealous! Love your blog!

  3. The washer is gorgeous but I'm all about making do with what we have. My vote: keep your old monster until it is so broken and beyond repair that you simply cannot use it. In the meantime start a change jar fund for the candy-red beauty. Hopefully by the time you are needing to buy a new one you'll have a bit of a nest egg built up for it.


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