Should I replace my washing machine?
The first question you should ask yourself when beginning your quest for a new washing machine is this: Do I really need a new washing machine?
Although newer models are generally more efficient, most of a washing machine’s environmental impact comes from its manufacture and delivery. According to the climate scientist Mike Berners-Lee, “for a machine you keep for 10 years and use efficiently the manufacture and delivery of the appliances account for nearly 80 per cent of the total carbon footprint of each wash.” A new, A-rated model might gain you about 10% in efficiency, but Berners-Lee claims that “you will struggle to ever pay back the embodied emissions.”
So, the most environmentally friendly washing machine is probably the one you already own – unless it is a particularly inefficient model.
As a washing machine’s embodied carbon emissions account for so much of its total climate impact, buying second-hand is a good option – unless you buy a particularly energy-inefficient model.
If possible, picking up a high-quality machine second-hand is a great way to reduce climate impact and (hopefully) find a good bargain.
How long should a washing machine last?
According to the White Goods Trade Association, the average lifespan of a washing machine has dropped from ten years to under seven, and it isn’t unusual for cheaper models to only last for a few years. Cheaper models account for a large proportion of the market, with 80% of all washing machines sold costing under £500 and over 40% costing under £300.
The decision to go for cheaper models is understandable – why pay hundreds more for a washing machine when you could buy a cheaper one and also have a holiday? But purchasing cheaper models is likely to be a false economy for two reasons: 1) they are more expensive to run, and 2) they will likely need replacing sooner.
While cheaper washing machines may only last a few years, Miele states that its machines are built and tested to last the equivalent of 20 years, and they are also some of the most efficient on the market. It may be the case that investing in a top-quality washing machine works out cheaper in the long run.
Right to repair
The short lifespan of domestic appliances will hopefully soon be a thing of the past. As we reported in a previous issue (190), recently passed ‘Right to repair’ legislation aims to extend the lifespan of products such as washing machines by up to ten years. The new law will legally oblige manufacturers to make spare parts available so that appliances can be repaired instead of needing to be replaced.
Research by the European Environmental Bureau found that increasing the life of all the washing machines in the EU would save 0.25 million tonnes of CO2 per year by 2030, the equivalent of taking 130,000 cars off the roads.