7 Tips for Saving Energy in the Laundry Room
By: Douglas Trattner
Published: August 28, 2009
Understanding your laundry room appliances is part of a smart plan to help you save energy in your home.
The bulk of a washing machine’s operating costs—around 90%, says Energy Star—go to replacing the hot water in the home’s hot water tank. Reduce the amount of hot water the appliance uses, and you’ll significantly shrink its associated utility bills. By washing fewer loads and doing those loads in cooler water, you can save around $200 per year.
1. Use cold water. Switching from hot wash to cold, according Michael Bluejay, also known as Mr. Electricity, who specializes in electricity savings, can shave up to $215 per year off your electric bill. If you have a high-efficiency washer or gas-fueled water heater, assume savings of about half that figure. Cold washes are generally as effective in getting clothes clean as hot.
2. Only wash full loads. Discounting the energy required to heat the water, it costs around $60 per year in electricity to run the washer, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Because it takes just as much electricity to wash a small load as it does a full one, you’ll save money by only washing full loads. By reducing the number of overall loads by one-quarter, you can save $15 a year.
Because it’s essentially a “toaster with a fan,” says Amanda Korane of The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a nonprofit focused on advancing energy efficiency, the clothes dryer is a difficult appliance to make green. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to lessen its impact on your utility bill to the tune of about $80 per year.
3. Spin it faster. Good dryer efficiency starts in the clothes washer. Setting the maximum spin speed in the washer will reduce the amount of time—and energy—it takes to get clothes dry. Many of today’s high-speed washer spin cycles can cut dry times by as much as half compared with older models. If an average electric clothes dryer costs about $80 per year to operate, according to the DOE, savings can approach the $40 mark.
4. Clean lint filter and exhaust. Dryers have to work harder and longer to dry clothes when air doesn’t freely flow. Cleaning the lint filter before every use and doing the same for the exhaust line once a year will help maintain maximum efficiency. Also, check that the duct hose is free from tight bends and obstructions. These small chores not only will save a few bucks per year, they will reduce the risk of fire.
5. Activate energy-saving features. If the dryer has an automated moisture-sensing device, use it. Setting the timer can cause the dryer to run longer than necessary. But a moisture sensor will automatically shut off the machine when it senses clothes are dry. This feature can save $8 to $12 a year.
6. Dry like with like. Lighter items, such as T-shirts and blouses, dry much quicker than heavy items like towels and blankets. Therefore, when these items are combined in the same load, some of the clothes continue to tumble long after they’re dry. This extends the dry time of the bulkier items, in turn wasting a few bucks every month.
7. Skip it. Every load in the dryer costs around $0.35, according to Bluejay. Hanging clothing to dry on a line outside or rack inside costs nothing. Racks run about $25 to $90 at online retailers. So, by giving the dryer a break even occasionally, savings can add up. Not only will the practice reduce utility bills, it will help extend the life of both the clothes and the appliance.