My old clothes washing machine needs to be replaced. How does a front-loading machine compare to a top-loading one in energy efficiency, and what features should I consider? R.D.

A - Although top-loading washing machines are most popular in the United States, they are much less energy efficient than a front-loading machine. Front-loaders are more popular in Europe where energy costs are higher.

The majority of the cost to operate a washing machine is from the hot water usage. The electricity cost to operate the motors is less than $10 a year. Depending on your utility rates, washing clothes costs about three times more using an electric water heater than with a gas one.

In a regular cycle setting, for example, a top-loader uses from 35 to 45 gallons per wash. A front-loader uses only 25 to 30 gallons per wash. The permanent-press cycle usually uses about 5 to 10 gallons more in a toploader, but the front-loader uses about the same as the regular cycle.

In addition to the energy savings from a front-loader, the tumbling motion of the clothes (around a horizontal axis) through the water provides very good cleaning action. Also, if you are tight on space, you can stack the dryer on top of the washer. The largest top-loaders have a greater capacity than the largest front-loaders.

The more control settings that a clothes washer has, generally the more efficient it can be. Wash and rinse cycle settings (water temperature) are important. It should have at least these three - hot/cold, warm/

cold, and cold/cold (wash/rinse). With an electric water heater, a hot/hot cycle costs about 66 cents per load compared to 18 cents for a warm/cold.

Water level controls are also important. Select a washer with at least three levels or preferably, totally variable levels. The water consumption typically ranges from 20 gallons at small load capacity setting, 30 gallons at medium, to 40 gallons at large.

Some washing machines offer a special tiny minibasket for very small loads. If you often do these tiny loads, it would be worthwhile to pay the extra amount for this feature.

Although each washer sold carries an "Energy Label" showing the energy usage, it is not as good a gauge as on other appliances. A smaller capacity washer will show a lower energy usage, but you may have to do more loads than with a large one. Therefore, it may cost more to operate overall.

You can write to me for UTILITY BILLS UPDATE No. 276 showing a list of the highest-efficiency top-loading and front-loading washing machines, a list of features to consider, and tips for reducing clothes washing costs. Write to James Dulley, The Deseret News, 6906 Royal Green Drive, Cincinnati OH 45244. Please include $1.00 and a self-addressed STAMPED BUSINESS-SIZE envelope.

Q - I want to replace some of the bulbs in my lamps with the new highefficiency compact fluorescent bulbs. I want natural looking light. What is meant by the temperature of the light in degrees K? A.Q.

A - The "temperature" rating of a light source is a reference number to compare its light quality to others. A light with a temperature of 3,000 degrees K means that its light quality is similar to the light given off by a glowing piece of metal at 3,000 degrees.