Rising energy costs and global warming concerns have caused the market for energy-saving appliances to explode with new, high-efficiency models. However, while most people would love to replace their older unit with a brand new model, such purchases are expensive, and beyond the means of many people.
Many must resign themselves to making the best adjustments they can, with the appliances they already own.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American family washes nearly 400 loads of laundry per year. This makes the laundry room an excellent target for beginning your efforts to use less energy.
Even if you can afford new, energy-efficient appliances, or already have them in your laundry room, these strategies will still reduce your energy consumption,
By starting with one room in your home, you will avoid being overwhelmed, and build enough confidence to tackle the rest of your home.
The Washing Machine
- 1 The Washing Machine
- 2 The Dryer
- 3 The Water Heater
- 4 The Laundry Room
Using Cold Water
Many people use their washing machine’s hot water setting by default, but this is not necessary for most clothes. Start washing your clothes in cold water whenever possible.
Though historically necessary to clean some types of clothes thoroughly, modern washing machines and detergents work well enough that hot water is not required.
In fact, by washing your clothes in cold water, the colors will usually remain brighter longer. If you like, you can seek laundry detergents designed specifically for use in cold water.
Superlative Spin Cycles
According to the ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings, high-speed spin cycles are more efficient than using your dryer to remove the water from clothes.? (Bendt, 2010)
While this is only beneficial to a point – the spin cycle will not completely dry your clothes – it makes good sense to take advantage of this fact. Accordingly, use the highest speed setting appropriate with each load you wash.
Do not be afraid to add a few additional minutes of spin time before placing your clothes in the dryer, to ensure the clothes are as dry as possible when going into the dryer.
When purchasing a washing machine in the future, select a model with a very high-speed spin cycle. ?
Wash Full Loads
Your washing machine goes to just as much trouble when washing a small load of laundry as it does when filled to capacity.
Always be sure to wash full loads, and avoid washing a few items out of convenience. This will also aid your attempts to maximize the heat in your dryer as well – large loads dry more efficiently than small loads do.? (Bendt, 2010)
If you only have one or two items to wash, consider washing them by hand. If your laundry room has a sink, washing one or two items by hand is not particularly arduous, and saves a great deal of energy.?
Towels and Tennis Balls
Whenever drying a load of clothes, toss a tennis ball or two and a clean, dry towel in the drier as well. The tennis balls help to create air pockets between the garments and fabrics, which allows the water to evaporate more quickly.
Simultaneously, the towel will absorb some of the water as it evaporates into the warm air. Replace the tennis balls as they become worn to prevent them from spreading neon-green lint all over your clothes.
Warm Air Intake
Most driers take air from the room in which they reside, and heat it to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that on a July afternoon, you spend money to cool the 90 degree outside your house down to 68 degrees, only to pay again to raise it higher than it was originally.
The simplest solution is for driers to begin with the warmer air from outside. Nevertheless, such systems are less efficient in the winter, where it may have to heat cold air, instead of starting with the air inside the home.
The best solution is a dryer that can switch between the two air sources, depending on the outside conditions. While this is not a new concept, commercial units do not yet have such capabilities. However, experienced contractors can install such customizations for relatively modest budgets.
Cleaning Your Lint Filter
As your clothes tumble around in the warmth of the dryer, fibers, lint and little pieces of dust escape into the air inside the unit. Your dryer constantly sucks the damp air from inside the main chamber, propels it through a motor and eventually outside of your home. A screen filter prevents these fibers from reaching and clogging the motor or traveling through the vent.
Over time, a layer of lint builds up on top of the filter. The lint reduces the airflow characteristics of the unit, making your dryer much less efficient. Additionally, clogged filter screens may represent a fire hazard, so you must tend to it regularly. Ideally, you should clean the filter after each load.
However, dryer filters do not only collect fibers that you can see, they also clog with minute particles and the wax buildup from the use of fabric softening sheets.
To test this out for yourself, remove your filter and take it over to the sink, and run some cool water on it. If your filter is clean, water should pour straight through the mesh with little resistance.
On the other hand, if water pools on the surface, the screen is clogged – whether it looks clean or not. Remedy the situation by gently scrubbing the screen with some warm soapy water and an old toothbrush. Rinse the screen and dry it off thoroughly before replacing it in the dryer.
Back to Back Drying
Immediately after removing a load of dry clothes, your dryer will retain a significant amount of heat. Take advantage of this by drying all of your laundry in rapid succession.
Let your dryer set your schedule when doing chores – be sure that you have a clean load of wet laundry, ready to go in immediately after removing the newly dried clothes.
The Water Heater
Turn the Thermostat Down
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average household spends between $400 and $600 each year to heat their water. This means that water heating is the second highest expense in your home, accounting for nearly one-fifth of your utility bills. (Gerrity)
Set the thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit; temperatures in excess of this are unnecessary, expensive and potentially dangerous. Even at 120 degrees, water can cause scalds with extended exposure.
Water at 140 degrees can cause full-thickness burns within five seconds. (LiveSafe Foundation, 2014)
Keep the Heat You Create
Insulated water heater blankets are one of the best ways to increase the efficiency of old water heaters. If your water tank heater is warm to the touch, you are wasting energy that you have paid and used resources to create.
Insulated blankets use reflective surfaces to contain radiant heat from the unit, while fibrous insulation materials help to reduce convective losses. Do not forget to insulate any exposed pipes as well.
The Laundry Room
Now that you have maximized the energy efficiency of the units inside your laundry room, work on maximizing the energy efficiency of the entire room. Use the vents, windows and doors in your laundry room to achieve the smartest airflow patterns, most of which are common sense.
When drying clothes in the heat of summer, close the interior door and the HVAC vents and open all of the outside doors and windows.
Conversely, capture that heat in the winter by keeping all of the outside doors shut while opening the inside doors. Use ceiling fans to help achieve high air flow rates.?
- Bendt, P. (2010). Are We Missing Energy Savings in Clothes Dryers? . ACEEE Summer Study on Energy Efficiency in Buildings.
- Gerrity, S. (n.d.). New Energy Saver 101. Environmental Protection Agency.
- LiveSafe Foundation. (2014). Scalds – A Burning Issue for Burn Awareness Week 2014. Retrieved from Live-Safe.org.