Hey Mr. Green,
The bearings in our nine-year-old Energy Star washing machine are shot. Repair will cost almost as much as a new machine. One green friend advises us to buy a new, more efficient model. But wouldn't the disadvantages of sticking a repairable appliance in the landfill outweigh whatever benefits might accrue from buying a snazzy new one? Has washer technology really improved so much in the last decade?--Naomi in Davis, California
Government calls for energy conservation--and the brilliant response from industry engineers--have indeed led to efficiencies that favor a new washing machine. Back in 2002, when you bought yours, Energy Star models were allowed to use about 40 percent more power and 60 percent more water than they are today. Some new Energy Star washers are twice as efficient as those manufactured under the old standard, and many use only a third as much water. A new washer can reduce your utility bills by up to $135 per year, according to the EPA, and by washing full loads with cold water and using a solar dryer (a.k.a. a clothesline), you can save even more. That new machine can also help atone for your area's 250-gallon-a-day per capita water habit--which is double that of water-savvy places like Tucson.
Compare washers by consulting the EPA's list of some 250 at http://bit.ly/EPAwashersPDF. If you're daft enough to aspire to a Mr. Green level of geekdom, you can download an EPA spreadsheet to calculate the exact dollar amount a new machine would save.
And don't fret about your old washer rusting away in a landfill. Appliance dealers will often haul away and recycle your used model. Go to earth911.com to find a nearby recycler.