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Stop Laundering Your Energy Money

Jul 11, 2008
Laundry may be the one daily chore nobody wants to think much about. However, two of the larger energy consuming appliances in your home are in the laundry room. The clothes washer uses both energy and water, especially if you wash in hot water. The clothes dryer is a large heater blowing hot air through your wet clothes. The water heater accounts for 13% of the average US home's annual utility bill. Of that up to 26% can be due to washing clothes. Therefore, about 3.4% of your utility bill is for heating the water to wash your clothes. Read the following tips to stop wasting money from your clothes washer and dryer.

Wash in the lowest needed temperature and rinse in cold water. Most of the energy used for the clothes washer is consumed at the water heater, about 80 to 90%. Top load washers have tubs which can use 45 to 60 gallons of water per load. Front end washers use only about 17-26 gallons. If hot water is selected on the washer, then most of the above water comes from your water heater. Using the lowest water temperature is the best action to reduce energy consumption of your clothes washer.

Fill tub completely. If this is not possible, then adjust water level to the load. Waiting until there is enough dirty clothes for a full load will minimize the time the washer is used. However, overloading the washer may prevent sufficient cleaning of all the clothes. In the few cases some clothes must be washed, adjust the water level.

Use gentle cycle when possible. The washer also has an electric motor to spin the tub (drum) and agitator. Less energy is needed for a gentle agitation. Energy Star qualified front end washers do not have an agitator.

When buying a new washer, consider front end washers that are Energy Star qualified. Front end washers use less water and energy than top load washers. Energy Star qualified washers use over 40% less energy and water. Even if a washer is Energy Star qualified, energy use can vary between models and manufacturers. Always compare the yellow EnergyGuide tag posted on the appliance.

Dry your clothes outside on a clothesline. The clothes dryer has an electric or gas heater to dry the clothes. These heaters can be quite large, requiring a 240 volt connection in the US for electric heaters. Most of the energy used by the dryer goes into the heater. There is a fan to pull air through the drying clothes and out through a vent; and a motor turns the drum. The energy used by the clothes dryer is similar between models and manufacturers. Since there is little that can be done to reduce energy, they are not required to display EnergyGuide tags and are not included in Energy Star requirements. To save energy runtime must be reduced. The greatest reduction in runtime comes from drying clothes outside; let the sun do the work. Some homeowner associations do not allow or restrict the use of clotheslines.
Clean lint filter after every load. Lint in the filter slows the airflow and results in longer time to dry clothes. Make sure entire vent to the outside is clear of lint.

Using spin dry features of the washer saves drying time. Spinning your clothes in the washer pulls water from your clothes by means of centrifugal force. This uses less energy than the heater in your dryer. Energy star qualified washers spin clothes two to three times faster. More water is extracted which reduces dryer run time.

Do not over dry clothes. This runs your dryer longer than needed, wasting energy. When buying a new dryer, consider one with a moisture sensor.

Do not forget other devices that use energy. The use of the clothes iron is declining in our fast pace permanent press world but they do use energy when used. Irons can pull 1000 to 1800 watts. Use irons only when needed and make sure you do not leave it on. A sink may be used to aid in stain removal. Any use of hot water will use energy at the water heater.

To summarize, the major factor in energy use of clothes washers is water temperature. Try using warm water instead of hot water. Use cold water for colors and delicates. Rinsing can be with cold water. There is no advantage to rinse with warm or hot water. There is little control over the heat used by the clothes dryer; simply, do not run the dryer when it is not needed. These efforts will stop wasting energy when you do laundry.
About the Author
Gary Transmeier has worked over 25 years providing paying clients methods to save energy in their buildings. Now he offers ways to save energy to everyone. At The Home Energy Place you will find details on over a 100 ways to save energy in your home.
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