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The eligibility criteria for washing machines to be included in the Waterwise Rebate Program in Western Australia will rise from four to 4.5 WELS (Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme) points or ‘stars’ from 1 January 2008 – but this won’t be the last time the Water Corporation will up the ante, it says.

The Western Australian State Government will rise the rebate criteria again once there are various 4.5-star rated models on the market, which could potentially happen at the end of next year according to washing machine vendors who, having received word of the rebate hike from Western Australian authorities last week have already commenced developing models to meet the new criteria.

There are currently 12 models rated 4.5 stars or above on the market, from brands Ariston, Miele, Kleenmaid and LG. The WELS program measures washing machines and other water-using appliances such as dishwashers according to how little water they use. Different State Governments then create programs to refund consumers up to $200 if they purchase those models considered ‘waterwise’ – an incentive for both the consumer and the manufacturer to save water.

Though the WELS chart gives washing machines the opportunity to be rated with up to five stars, there aren’t any models currently on the market that achieve this goal. However, manufacturers might try harder to reach this target if the government once again moves the goal posts.

“There’s still another level to go and we will continue to lift the bar,” Water Corporation water efficiency planner, John Brennan, told SmartHouse News.

 

Brennan was responsible for penning the most recent change to the Waterwise Rebate Program criteria in Western Australia, and says he hopes it will encourage manufacturers to continue seeking new ways to save even more water through product design.

“We have already changed the criteria on a number of occasions. We were the first state to introduce the rebate back when the criteria fell under a different system – the National Water Conservation Rating and Labelling Scheme (the ‘AAAAA’ Scheme), the highest rating of which amounted to three WELS stars now,” said Brennan.

“In WA almost 80 per cent of the washing machines now attract a rebate.”

Brennan assured SmartHouse that the rising WELS eligibility wasn’t to do with the Western Australian government being obliged to fork out $150 a piece to the growing number of consumers purchasing 4-star rated washing machines. Since rebates were introduced in 2003, the Western Australian State Government alone has granted almost $28 million to 185,000 households.

“We hope it will encourage manufacturers to become even more water conscious,” he said.

 

Brennan said he was aware of the grief it caused manufacturers when WELS eligibility rose, however he says that the Western Australian market it relatively small representing 10 per cent of the Australia-wide demand for washing machines, so manufacturers shouldn’t be put out too much.

Omega Smeg, Samsung and Miele have each told SmartHouse that they will now develop new models that offer 4.5 stars and above (Miele is the only manufacturer of the three that currently offers a 4.5-star rated model) – each attracting a six-month design and development period at least.

There has been no word of other states following suite, however if the technology is available then the authorities will respond, says Samsung Electronics product manager – laundry, Paul Liscomb.

Samsung Electronics sells a mixture and top-loading washing and the more water-savvy front-loading models, which many say are the way ahead in washing machine technology – and consequently attract the highest WELS star ratings.

“The reality is that having a four-star washing machine is a lot more common now than it was two years ago,” he said.

“There are so many water-saving options on the market now – 50 per cent of people are already buying front loading washers. It would be uncommercial of the Government to continue the current offering when people buy front loaders anyway,” said Liscomb.

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