August 30, 2002

Wash Away Water and Energy Bill Worries

Energy and Water Efficient Appliances Save Money

By Luis Generoso
City of San Diego Water Department

Most people agree doing the laundry or washing the dishes is not a lot of fun. But, you can take steps to reducing your utility bills while you’re accomplishing these household chores. It won’t make them more pleasant, but it will keep them from being expensive, and may even save some time.

Traditional dishwashing machines account for nearly 28 percent of all indoor water usage. But, they are more efficient than doing dishes by hand. In fact, data from the California Energy Commission shows that dishwashers use 37 percent less water than washing dishes by hand. The trade off is it takes a lot of energy to heat the water in the dishwasher. But, this too can be overcome. There are new and innovative products on the market which maximize water and energy consumption for homeowners. Many of these products are labeled with the Energy Star® sticker.


The average dishwasher uses 8 to 14 gallons of water for a complete wash cycle, but requires a water temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Maintaining your water heater temperature this high would result in excessive heat loss when the dishwasher wasn’t being used. One solution is to add a booster heater to your dishwasher. Boosters cost in the range of about $30, but by installing it you can turn down your water heater about 20 degrees. The average person will see the return on their investment in about a year.

You can also save water and energy by selecting the shorter wash cycle on your dishwasher. Shorter cycles clean just as efficiently, but require less water thus reducing the water and energy consumption. The most efficient dishwasher on the market today can cost half as much to operate as the most inefficient model, so if you are planning to purchase a new dishwasher soon, be sure to check the Energy Guide labels and compare energy and water costs.

High-Efficiency Washing Machines

High-efficiency washers are uniquely designed to use less water and energy to clean your clothes. Traditional washing machines use 35 or more gallons of water per load, while high-efficiency machines use 18-25 gallons. As a result, customers using HEW’s can reduce indoor water usage by one-third; that’s a savings of approximately 5,400 gallons a year. Not only do they use less water, HEW’s use 55 percent less energy, and because they extract more water during the spin cycle clothes are 25 percent drier than in traditional washing machines which reduces drying time. Less energy is used because there is less water to heat. In fact, customer’s owning HEW’s report clothes are cleaner and the machines are gentler on the clothes. The result is less wear and tear, and less wrinkles.

The City of San Diego’s Water Department will provide customers a $125 voucher to purchase a new high-efficiency clothes washing machine. Vouchers must be presented at the time of the purchase and work much like a coupon, not a rebate. Call 1-800-986-4538 to request a voucher. Multi-family, commercial, industrial and institutional customers are eligible to request a $300 voucher per coin-operated machine.

The Water Conservation Program reduces water demand through promoting or providing incentives for the installation of hardware that provides permanent water savings, and by providing services and information to help San Diegans make better decisions about water use. For more information about Water Conservation, visit or call (619)515-3500.

Return to the Frontpage