Earth Notes: On the Zanussi ZWD14581W front-load washer-dryer: Review (2009)

Updated 2024-06-15 10:10 GMT.
By Damon Hart-Davis.
Bigger load, faster spin and cold washes cut laundry carbon footprint 80%!
We had to replace a previous washer/dryer in a hurry. This replacement worked well. Features such as cold wash are energy efficient. With some TLC it put in many years of service. We stopped using the dryer function after a while.

Product: Zanussi ZWD14581W

Freestanding front-loading 7kg washer-dryer.
  • Brand:
  • Colour: white
  • SKU: ZWD14581W
  • MPN: 914604300
  • Discontinued
  • GBP450 valid at/until:
Review summary
  • Zanussi ZWD14581W
  • Efficient, did the job well. Ran for more than eleven years from March 2009, with the door lock failing .

    Excellent range of settings. Includes very energy-efficient cold washes and fast spin.

    We hadn't attempted to tumble dry anything in years. Last time we did, it got very unhappy on anything other than on a low-heat setting.

    Also, what I take to be the 'signature' stream of water jetted in from about top-of-door level, repeatedly fails in spite of repairs. It makes an annoying noise, but its failure does not seem to hurt wash results.

  • Rating: 4.5/5
  • Published:
  • Updated:


Have you saved energy with the new washing machine? How?

Yes, with cold washes we save most of the energy that would otherwise be used, for heating the water. Running a 'cottons' wash makes up for the lower temperature with more mechanical agitation. Apart from saving carbon and the planet, cold washes mean that accidents with running colours and shrinking clothes are (almost!) a thing of the past... Modern liquid detergents do fine for us for our cold washes.

What is a "maintenance wash"?

Running cold washes saves energy but lets a bit more grot build up in the machine. So once in a while run a hotter "maintenance" wash as recommended by the manufacturer to help avoid this and flush it out. The machine need not be empty, but should not be bursting with a badly soiled load to do the job well.

What does E40 on the display mean?

It's an error code (and the start button flashes red) meaning that the door is not locked shut. In this case for us it meant that the safety lock had failed and that the machine could not be used.

(Here's a YouTube video on how to replace the lock mechanism.)


The bearings on our old washer/dryer died suddenly. They let out some real smoke (March 2009) in the middle of a 1200rpm spin.

(A washer/dryer is also known as a washing machine, laundry machine, clothes washer, washer, tumble-dryer.)

We'd already had it repaired once for a problem with the dryer. I think that replacing the main bearing/motor would be like drinking decaf coffee... You just threw out the whole big end! (No, I don't know why decaf exists.)

Replaced In Haste

We managed to select a replacement in a huge hurry, from our favourite mid-range manufacturer, Zanussi. This machine will, unusually for the UK, allow a wash in unheated water. With our inlet temperature varying between 10C and 20C, and washing detergents now advertised to work down to 15C, we may be able to do without heating the water at all much of the time. Especially in summer, this might save ~90% of the energy needed, or ~1kWh/day.

The newer machine claims to use 1/3rd less water per kg of wash. Also good.

I prepared a spreadsheet to compare the various models that I looked at.

The site was very helpful. The Energy Saving Trust was not though, as it refuses to endorse any washer/dryers even though it does approve the separate appliances. Not all of us have the space for two appliances or even intend to use the dryer other than very rarely! I've taken EST's CEO to task over this, but no one seems to even understand the point.

We dry laundry on a line outside whenever possible, and failing that inside. We only resort to the tumble-dryer in desperation when (for example) there are not enough clean dry clothes for one of the children. Tumble-drying uses a lot of energy and is best avoided whenever possible.

We've been testing the performance of the new machine vs the old one. We can't measure water consumption but we can measure energy and time. You can see the washes we've measured below.

ZWD14581W washer dryer control panel
ZWD14581W washer dryer control panel.

I can also report that the new machine seems reasonably quiet. Other than the complexity of operation that we deliberately bought into, is easy to use. It has nice features such as being able to pause a wash to add a missed sock, the display of time remaining to finish the wash, automatic reduced wash time (and energy consumption) for smaller loads. Also there is a start-delay feature not used yet but which may help us reduce CO2 emissions by doing washes at night.

In summary I'd say we're pretty happy with the new machine. We are pleased to have stuck with a brand that we know and trust, and which has done better than its published specs when actually tested...

As of August 2009 maybe half our washes are Cotton Proportional/Jetsystem+ 30°C for normal soiling, maybe 20% are Cotton cold washes, and most of the rest are Cotton Eco Proportional/Jetsystem+ 40°C. We rarely do anything else at all (eg 60°C, delicates, etc). If we can obtain a detergent (like Tide Coldwater HE in the US) then the proportion of cold washes, especially in winter, my go up, thus saving more energy.

Maintenance Washes

One downside from doing mainly cool washes (40°C or lower) is the potential for build-up of residues and bacterial growth (eg 'biofilms').

Zanussi recommends a hot (60°C/90°C) wash at least once every six weeks. We can take the opportunity to tackle stubborn stains on towels (etc), while retaining most of the amortised energy savings on average!

The same applies to such other appliances such as dishwashers. While they can generally be run on more eco-friendly settings, they should once in a while be run on a hot setting to flush out accumulated grot. The load in the machine at the time gets extra attention too!

2017-03-13: when doing the maintenance wash or one immediately after, we use "extra rinses" to help ensure that any grot displaced by the heat does not end up deposited on the washing. We now aim for one maintenance wash per week (ish), as for our dishwasher.

New Machine (ZWD14581W) Performance

We continue to test some of the huge number of cycle combinations available along with our existing and new laundry detergents. Rows coloured deep green are our main washes. Here are some observations:

ProgrammeWash TempLaundry Weight Wash TimeEnergy Use Inlet TempComments
Cotton Proportional90°C~1kg 95m1.0kWh 21°C We did a maintenance wash with a few small white towels and cloths and some nappy disinfectant (sodium carbonate/percarbonate) plus detergent to clear any gunge out of the machine accumulating from cooler washes. (All done on power from our solar PV system; none imported!)
Cotton Eco Proportional60°C~7kg 125m1.02kWh 11°C The manual specifies 1.19kWh and 52l for this programme, ie 0.17kWh/kg and 7.4l/kg; this beats our old machine in practice and according to the manual by about 10% in energy terms. (A weekly 'maintenance' wash with towels, done overnight on a 9h delay (and preferably on Saturday night to minimise carbon intensity of the electricity used), with ~20°C inlet temperature consumed 0.74kWh; another with an inlet temperature of 19°C used 0.76kWh of which up to about 0.05kWh was while the machine was waiting on delay using ~5W.)
Cotton Eco Proportional60°C<1kg 80m0.66kWh 10°C Test wash of some stubborn stains with Ariel Excel gel worked reasonably well, but note that it is much more energy efficient per kg to run a full load.
Cotton + Prewash40°C~5kg 142m1.11kWh 19°C Run with 9h delay to take advantage of low grid carbon-intensity but finishing when we were up to avoid being left to crease. The prewash runs at 30°C according to the manual. May be worth using overnight instead of 60°C on full loads for a long and intense wash.
Cotton Eco Proportional40°C~7kg 90m+0.91kWh 11°C Used for about 30% of washes as of August 2009. For heavy soiling, as it is probably the most thorough warm wash. We can use our 'normal' (cheap/effective Tesco-own-brand) tablet detergent at this temperature. (Consumed 0.62kWh with a ~19°C inlet temperature.) The "Extra Rinses" feature seems to take 20m--30m more.
Cotton Proportional40°C~4kg 80m0.57kWh 12°C
Cotton + Prewash30°C~5kg 135m0.65kWh 19°C Run with 9h delay to take advantage of low grid carbon-intensity but finishing when we were up to avoid being left to crease. The (~25m) prewash runs at 30°C according to the manual. (Another slightly larger load used 0.76kW still with 19°C inlet.) May be worth using overnight instead of 40°C on full loads for a long and intense wash.
Cotton Proportional30°C~4kg 76m0.43kWh 11°C Used for about half our washes as of August 2009. Seems fine for normally-soiled washes using our normal (cheap) tablet detergent, and may be an energy next-best to a cold wash in winter when the inlet temperature is too low for the detergents available; may save up to 30%--50% energy (~0.25kWh+ each load) compared to a 40°C wash. (Other data points: 0.40kWh @ 13°C inlet temperature and a similar or slightly-larger load, 0.26kWh @ 19°C inlet (time still ~75m).)
Cottoncold~3kg 85m0.19kWh 19°C This seems to provide a longer and more thorough cold wash (not auto-adjusted to wash load, implying extra water use) to deal better with large soiled loads when the cold water temperature drops in winter, especially when used with a bio detergent and 'extra rinses' (takes ~100m total, still <0.2kWh) to minimise skin sensitivity problems. (Max power consumption during wash ~200W with spins 500W--2kW.)
Cotton Proportionalcold~3kg 60m0.16kWh 10°C On a test wash we did not skimp on the Ariel Excel gel and only extremely stubborn old stains defeated it; new soiling including chocolate and nappy leakage came out fine.
Used for about 20% of washes as of August 2009. Suitable for lightly-to-normally soiled loads at least in summer.
We found that both the Ariel Excel gel and the Fairy non-bio gel did very well in a cold wash as soon as inlet temperature hit 14°C, the former getting Biro and ingrained stains out of our yellow sofa cover and the latter getting carrot (etc) out of our baby's top.
Increasing the load size increases the cycle time (eg ~5kg takes 90m) but apparently not the energy use, though a very small load (~1kg) seems to drop energy use a little to 0.13kWh.
Cotton Proportionalcold~5kg n/a0.18kWh 12°C Run with extra rinses and with a 4h delay to start ~3:30am to take advantage of minimum grid carbon-intensity; set night-spin-suppression feature for quiet and to avoid creasing. Leaves clothes in final rinse water and agitates every few minutes. Subsequently ran 15m 1400rpm spin bringing total to 0.25kWh.
Cotton Superquickcoldsmall ~45m<0.1kWh perhaps 10°C Consumption too small to measure with usual meter (2015-03-22).
Synthetics Proportional40°C~3kg 90m0.66kWh 11°C
Synthetics Normal40°C~3kg 80m0.62kWh 11°C
Synthetics Normal30°C~5kg 75m0.44kWh 10°C Failed to shift some very heavy soiling (from a leaky nappy) on one item, but generally OK.
Synthetics Normalcold~4kg 90m0.1kWh 10°C Was followed up by a 1400rpm spin (0.05kWh) to make sure that line-drying would not take too long.
Synthetics Proportionalcold~2kg 40m0.06kWh 11°C Initial wash time estimate was 70m, but after 5m dropped to 35m remaining. Good wash of variety of non-heavily-soiled items with half dose of Ariel Excel gel. ~90% energy saving over typical warm cycle, and with half-dose of detergent, same cost as one 30°C/40°C tablet (~10p).
Silk 30'30°C<1kg 35m0.19kWh ~19°C
Mini 30'30°C~5kg 30m0.29kWh 11°C
Delicatescold~2kg 55m0.04kWh 13°C Washing one business suit; even 1/2 dose of Ariel Excel gel Colour caused excess foam, so would reduce for another time.
Handwash30°C<1kg 60m0.39kWh 10°C
Handwashcold<1kg 50m0.02kWh 10°C Not effective with standard (30°C) detergent, but fine with Ariel Excel gel.
Other: not washes
Synthetics (cool) tumble dry-~3kg 50m0.73kWh - Power consumption ~1kW.
Rinses-~2kg 48m0.11kWh 13°C Includes spin at 1400rpm.
Spin 1400rpm-~5kg 15m0.04kWh - Peak power consumption 500W--2kW! (Cf ~100W--200W during wash/rinse to agitate/tumble clothes.)
Off-- -- - Appeared to draw ~0W when 'off' at the machine; maybe 3W with display active, eg at end of a cycle. (Original meter readings ~2W/5W; revised with better meter 2014-06-10.) May still be worthwhile switching off at the wall when not in use, which was also a sensible safety measure with a toddler who had been caught crawling into the drum more than once.

Note: "Proportional" cycles are labelled "Jetsystem+".

A 10°C increase in wash temperature (or equivalently, a 10°C decrease in inlet temperature for a warm/hot wash) typically increases consumption by > 0.25kWh for a medium-to-full load. So all washes other than cold take an extra ~0.25kWh+ in winter vs summer, and thus cold washes are especially energy-saving in winter.

Old Machine (ZWD1260W) Performance

By way of comparison, here are my notes/observations for the old machine.

Consumes a few W (2000MU-UK reports 2W) even when apparently 'off' at the machine with the power light off, which is bad: definitely one to switch off at the wall. 0.74kWh for our typical full 40°C wash. 0.91kWh for a 60°C wash of towels with a 13°C mains inlet temperature (the manual specifies 1.10kWh, 63l and 145m for that wash, ie 0.22kWh and 12.6l per kg of washing; our replacement ZWD14581W is 0.17kWh and 8l per kg). 0.59kWh for a 30°C 'worn once' wash with a 10°C mains inlet temperature. 0.79kWh for a 40-minute tumble dry of a half-load. The water inlet valve takes about 10W when open, slowly turning the (front-loading) drum up to about 300W peak (<150W average) and up to ~600W peak while ramping up to high spin speed, and the heating element takes 1.7kW. Main bearings failed 2009-03-17!

Detergents for Cold(er) Washes

We intend to test cold (and 30°C) washes with detergents such as Ariel Excel gel (which I belatedly noticed is bio in the versions that we bought) which claims to be able to clean effectively down at 15°C, the new non-bio version of the Excel gel with the same 15°C claim, and the Fairy non-bio gel for which I cannot find a low-temperature claim on P&G's Web sites. Ideally we'll locate a 10°C-capable product that we can use year-round, not just in summer when the inlet temperature will approach 20°C.

Which? looks at what happens to your clothes and bills when you change your washing machine temperature to 30, 40, 20 or 60 degrees.

I discovered that P&G sells a 4°C-rated detergent in North America but does not want to sell it in the UK which, brand machinations aside, I regard as scandalous.

Unilever (Persil brand and others) on the other hand says that most of its liquid detergents (not capsules) will work down to (are tested at) 10°C though performance will be better at 30°C. Much better. We've found "small&mighty" effective (and prefer the fragrance).

Running Overnight

To reduce the CO2 emissions associated with doing laundry the most obvious course of action is to reduce the energy associated with each kg of laundry done such as with a more efficient machine and/or a lower wash temperature. Our new machine should do both of these.

The other tactic to reduce CO2 emission for laundry is to shift the time that the wash is done to a time when less CO2 is emitted for the same electricity consumption which can save somewhere in the range of 10% to 33% for the UK/GB grid if the wash is shifted to late at night and away from day/evening peak demand.

This may be particularly worthwhile for those occasions when a hotter wash is required, for example for a "maintenance wash". Cold washes use relatively little energy and with relatively low peak demand and so are less of a priority to shift.

For households on an "Economy 7" or other similar cheap-off-peak tariff, shifting the load can also directly save money.

Our new machine has a delay feature which is enough for this. Set the load up ready to go, put on the 'night spin suppression' feature to keep it quiet, set the wash to start somewhere between about 11pm and 7am when grid "carbon intensity" (and thus emissions per wash load) is lowest, and the bulk of the wash's energy will be taken at the start of the programme to heat the water. Bingo! Up to a third lower CO2 emissions to do your wash.

There are a few potential flies in this balm:

So, the hotter the wash the higher the likely benefit of running overnight. Timing the delay so that the wash will finish just before you get up (but starts well before 7am) will probably avoid creasing too.

As of 2020 quite a number of our washes are timed to finish as we get up. This also helps make the most of line-drying time outside.

Safety of Running Overnight

Some people are concerned about running appliances overnight. I would be reluctant to leave the dryer running unattended for long. But for comparison, GB road fatalities in 2017 numbered 1,793 (a little over 10% of the total RTA casualties), whereas according to one source faulty appliances are the cause of some 3,700 domestic fires every year with 19 fire fatalities in 2010--2011. Maybe you're nearly 100 times more likely to be killed on the road than by running an extra appliance overnight. (Most of us happily leave on the fridge and sundry other things already.)

Fires that don't cause fatalities because people are out won't be in the same data set. But nor would non-fatal RTAs be.

2020-09-05: E40 - Not with a Bang but a Whimper...

E40 error code and flashing red button on slightly-grubby well-used Zanussi washer-drier control panel

This morning the door safety catch/lock appears to have failed part-way into a wash. The display shows code E40 with the button flashing red. The machine performed an unhappy triplet beep on the failure, and on each retry from pressing the 'start' button.

A far less spectacular failure than the previous machine!

This will likely require a repair or replacement.

(I managed to get the catch to work just once more, to drain the machine.)

We have decided to bite the bullet and go for a replacement, since we have the feeling from other factors (eg hot/burning whiffs) that the machine may be on the way out anyway.

I prepared another spreadsheet to compare the various models that we looked at.

I note that AO (and Boots Appliances, serviced by AO) adds a fairly hefty extra charge (eg ~£20--30) to get anything fast or in a non-all-day delivery slot. This feels more like taking advantage of a distress purchase by people who need to be out at work (etc) than a real cost of business. On that basis I'd rather direct our money to John Lewis, for its long non-gouging track record. (JL's 'standard' free delivery is a few working days, and even the fast delivery is a little under £20.)

All in, including taking away the old machine and connecting up the new, is £364 from John Lewis. Delivery is free. Note that the now-dead machine was ~£450, though was also a dryer.

It took about half the day (we placed our order before 4pm) to do our research for features and prices and delivery.

2020-09-06: to keep us on our toes, the dishwasher just flooded...

Read about the carbon soul-print of our new machine.

~3635 words.