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Consumers Wring in Energy Savings

by Becky Brun
NW Current, February 28, 2007

Procter & Gamble gave consumers a cheaper way to come clean in 2005 by launching the industry's first cold-water laundry detergent. Promising to help consumers lower their utility bills, Tide Coldwater quickly became a hot-selling product, according to the company's brand manager Dennis Ossipovgrodsky.

While most major detergent brands responded to the growing popularity of high-efficiency washing machines by offering a low-sudsing, high-efficiency formula, Tide is alone in its development of a cold water formula. Nonetheless, an increasing number of consumers have shown their willingness to change cleaning routines in favor of energy savings.

Residential laundering accounts for up to 36 percent of total household hot water use, according to a study by Procter & Gamble and Exponent, a U.S. consulting firm. Switching to cold water can save nearly 90 percent of the energy costs of operating washing machines, reports the U.S. Department of Energy.

Procter & Gamble, which holds 47 percent of the U.S. laundry detergent market, found that the average consumer -- one that washes seven loads of dirty laundry a week -- would save $63 annually by switching from warm water to cold. Despite the promise of energy savings, some rupophobic customers, or those that fear dirt, are slow to take the plunge, Ossipovgrodsky says.

"This is still a challenge that the brand faces today," he says. "What is very encouraging is that loyalty among those who try the product is exceptionally high and continues to grow."

Ossipovgrodsky declined to release information about the chemical makeup of Tide Coldwater, but he attributes the "break-through formula" to years of knowledge, expertise and innovation from Procter & Gamble's research and development group. Tide Coldwater's chemical attributes reportedly allow the detergent to perform as effectively as its warm water competitors. The cold water detergent sells for the same or slightly more than regular Tide.

Since hitting the market, Tide Coldwater has helped consumers save nearly 444,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, according to Procter & Gamble. The company's marketing campaign includes partnerships with the Alliance to Save Energy, Toyota, General Electric and comedienne Ellen Degeneres. Consumers that promise to take the "Coldwater Challenge" can enter to win prizes, including a Toyota Prius. In addition, Procter & Gamble pledges to donate $100,000 to the National Fuel Funds Network, an organization that assists state and local groups helping low-income families pay their energy bills.

The country's major washing machine manufacturers have in recent years added energy-saving models and invested in features such as "intelligent" wash sensors that compute the optimum amount of water needed for a given load. Samsung Electronics invested $10 million in the development of the Silver Nano washing machine, which utilizes nanotechnology to kill bacteria and sanitize laundry. The company claims the machine's 400 billion silver ions penetrate into fabrics and kill 99 percent of bacteria for up to 30 days after washing.

However, skeptics of the health and safety of nanotechnology called Samsung to remove the machine from the market. The German branch of Friends of the Earth claims the Silver Nano causes considerable amounts of silver to enter sewage plants and cause serious harm to the biologic purification process of the wastewater.

Today's Energy Star-qualified front-loading washing machines use 45 percent to 63 percent less water and about half the electricity of their top-loading counterparts, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Generally, front-loading machines remove more moisture during the spin cycle, which equates to less drying time and even more energy savings. While top-loading machines usually sell at a higher price, a modern Energy Star-qualified clothes washer can save consumers up to $110 per year on utility bills, according to the agency. In addition, many utilities offer rebates to customers who purchase Energy Star appliances.

A 2006 study by Mintel International Group found that 84 percent of respondents who owned a washer or dryer agreed it is worth paying more for energy-efficient products. Survey respondents said machine failure is the most common reason for purchasing a new laundry appliance, yet 54 percent claimed they bought an appliance in the last 24 months for other reasons, including energy efficiency.

Becky Brun
Consumers Wring in Energy Savings
NW Current, February 28, 2007

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