Zanussi Jetsystem 1600 XC6 Washer Dryer

Thursday 20th March, 2008
The Zanussi Jetsystem 1600 XC6 is a domestic washer dryer unit, the specific model being tested is the wjd1667w. Amongst other things, this means it is white and the XC stands for eXtra Capacity...meaning it has a larger drum than a 'standard model' allowing you to wash more clothes in a single load.


We disconnected the unit from the mains supply and between the plug and the supply socket we inserted our electricity meter device. We then switched on the mains supply again making the unit live.

On the front of the display is a large yellow ON/OFF button. Pushing the button in turns the unit on, pushing again turns it off and all the lights go out. But is it really off? Our meter says it isn't.

Most modern devices contain a micro-processor which controls the device and all it's functions. It's effectively a mini computer, but you don't get a conventional keyboard and screen. Unless the unit is fully switched at the main supply this micro-processor is often live at all times...the 'standby' mode we all read about in the press.

With the Zanussi switch clearly in the off position and no visible power lights, our system was still drawing a small current from the mains. Low, but definitely measurable. The current draw was displayed at 0.02amps which, on a 243.8v supply, worked out to be the equivalent of 1W (note we're using official watts here, not VA). 1watt may not seem a lot but, if you put this into perspective, just 2000 machines in a small town, all 'turned off' are using enough power to boil a kettle.

Almost every household owns a washing machine, how often do you turn yours off at the wall?

Come to think of it, how often do you leave the washer machine turned on at the end of a cycle? If you do, it's using 5 times as much electricity...up to 5watts (10VA) are being used whilst the machine is sat at the end of a cycle without being turned off. We're now talking just 400 machines to boil a kettle. We've not even loaded any clothes yet and our electricity meter is already ticking along nicely.

For comparative purposes, I've decided to use the household bath towels. Each week, we will use 2 full size cotton bath sheets; Mrs. jaffa also uses an additional hand tower for her hair. These 3 towels go in the washer dryer in a single load and are washed at 40 degrees and then dried. The press are asking us to turn down to 30 degrees, but I still like to turn them up to 50 to get that 'really clean' feeling. Additionally, the washer offers 2 main modes of "quick" or "AA", the latter taking significantly longer but apparently getting the clothes much cleaner. We like our 50 degreee AA wash, but how 'green' is it? Are we using an excessive amount of electricity in this mode? Over the coming weeks, we'll be washing our towels in these different modes and comparing the results.

For our initial benchmark, we're going for a 'quick' 40 degree cotton wash, 1600rpm spin speed (the max for this model) and choosing the 'store dry' option on the drying programme.

Within each wash we always include a Calgon tablet, this reduces limescale build up inside the machine making it more efficient and reducing breakdowns. If you aren't using one, you should be. Whilst some water softeners are included in your detergent, you're obliged to use more detergent in your wash to account for hard water. With the use of a softener tablet in each load, you can use just the soft water amount of detergent, reducing the amount of chemicals that end up going down the drain at the end of the wash.

We used supermarket own brand wash liquid form detergent and a dose of fabric conditioner for the rinse cycle. Don't worry, modern fabric conditioners are safe to use on towels.

To ensure our future results are as consistent as possible, I also completely cleaned the washing machine filter before starting the programme. This task should be performed at least weekly to remove all the lint that collects and reduce load on the drain pump.

Towels loaded, programme selected we hit the start button. The first thing the unit did was engage the drain pump to remove any water left over from the previous wash. This create a momentary load of around 900W, but only for 5-10secs. Then the inlet was opened and the unit started to fill with cold water.

After some water had been taken in, the drum spun slightly using around 30-50 watts in the process. Being a fairly modern machine, it does this to assess the amount of laundry in the wash drum and determine how much water is required. After juggling with the towels for a few spins in each direction, it then fills with the computed amount of water.

Modern washers are considerably more water efficient. This Zanussi only has a small amount of water in the drum during washing and as the drum rotates, the clothing is blasted with a water jet...hence the name Jetsystem. Gone are the days where you see the water level rising up the window in the door and socks floating around.

Whilst the drum filled with water, drum stationery, the washer used a constant 22Watts of power. Once full, the drum starts tumbling again and the heater kicks in. For this programme it needs to get mains supply water (approx 10 celcius) to warm up to 40 degrees. The heater unit draws some 10amps, a power consumption of 2300 watts in this process which took over 20 mins. This is a direct equivalent to having your kettle on for 20 minutes whilst not even boiling the water. Needless to say that even modern washers use a lot of water. I may even measure water consumption during a future wash cycle.

The washing programme selected took less than an hour, using around 120W during that time to rotate the drum and maintian water temperature. Including the drying, the whole cycle is around 2.5hrs. The drying is where the power really goes, using 1960W for around an hour and a half.

The end result is a total measured power consumption of 2.67KWh and a set of dry towels. Cost for this will vary with your electricity supplier but current costs are approximately 10 pence per unit plus tax. It's fair to say that this wash cost around 30 pence of electricity, so we're spending over £15 a year just to wash the towels for 2 people each week.

We're using over 130 KWh of electricity each year just for our weekly towel cycle. Could we reduce this by selecting a different programme on our washer? Does turning down to 30 really help reduce power consumption? Watch this space...

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