Do It Yourself Energy Efficiency Projects: Your Home’s Thermal Envelope (Part 7): Throwing in the Towel: The Laundry Center

By Vernon Trollinger, February 5, 2010, Energy Efficiency, Home Improvement

There are a few things you can do around your home to save money during the remaining winter months and the hot summer. The big energy users in the laundry area are the washer and the dryer. The trick to saving money is to know how well your machines perform so you can save water while washing them and dry them efficiently without wasting energy.

The typical washer uses about 0.256 kWh per load. The main cost is obviously the amount of hot water the is used during each load. Top loading washers use up to 40 gallons while front loaders use 10-24 gallons. It is easy to cut costs here by washing in warm or cold water rather than hot. However, the main energy savings comes from drying your clothes. Even though modern washing machines do an excellent job of extracting the water from clothes by spinning them, they still need to be dried. 

Dryers tend not to be very energy efficient because they have one job: force dry, heated air into a rotating drum to evaporate water. Dryers use ten to fifteen percent of domestic energy in the United States. They also cause lint. Lint comes from fibers in your clothing coming loose as the clothes tumble across each other in a dryer's hot drum. Lint not only collects in your dryer's lint trap but also through the dryer's duct work. If lint begins to obstruct or clog your dryer's duct work, the evaporated water from your nice, clean clothes will not leave the system very efficiently. If the water is trapped in lint, it will take longer and longer for the dryer to work. Therefore, once a year, pull your dryer away from the wall, detach the duct from the bottom of your dryer, and pull out as much lint as you can from the dryer and the duct. The first time you do this, you might be surprised how much you pull out. You'll also notice a big improvement in the time it takes for your dryer to dry your clothes. 

Having a dry home is a good thing.  But, during the winter heating months, you may notice your skin feels dry and itchy or your sinuses feel raw and irritated.  Maybe your home is too dry. One way improve this is to disconnect your dryer vent hose from the duct work leading out of the house. Place a nylon sock over the end of the vent tubing and tie it in place with a long twist tie or rubber band. This way, every time you run your drier, you will heat and humidify your house while the sock catches the finer particles of lint.  Be sure to block up the ductwork going outside.  A trick is to put a couple of big handfuls of lint into a zip-lock bag and shove this just inside the duct opening.  Then, put another plastic bag to cover the duct and tie it off with a long twist tie or a rubber band.  When the weather warms, pull all this apart and reconnect your drier hose.
 
Hanging your clothes not only save energy but also helps them last longer. Dry your clothes on a drying rack or clothes line. If you can't hang them outside, you can hang them inside by buying a retractable clothes line (outside models are also available). Set up the line in a hallway of your home and hang your clothes to dry while you are at work. Place a large floor fan in the hallway to help circulate the air. If you are concerned about wrinkles, just tumble clothes in the dryer for a few minutes until they are warm. This will relax the fibers and you'll avoid having wrinkled or stiff clothes from hanging. 

Visit the Bounce Energy Education Center for more tips on saving energy. 

Plus, you might want to look at the Federal Energy Efficiency Tax Credit and save on your taxes, too.  There are also state and federal rebate programs for purchasing energy-efficient replacements for old, less efficient appliances.  
Stay tuned for next time: Getting into Hot Water

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Comments (2)

 

  1. Nick P. says:

    And be sure to look at the benefits of combining your improvements. The new front-loading horizontal drum washing machines not only use less water, they then spin the clothes SO FAST that they come out almost dry!
    We then just put those ‘almost dry’ clothes on this clothes drying rack that is set up under a ceiling fan for fast frying. We save a ton of energy by not using the clothes dryer at all.

  2. Ted Skaff says:

    This post is beyond awesome. I am always wondering what to do and what not to do so I will follow some of these tips.