Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Electricity Challenge - In the Laundry

Today I have ventured into my laundry to see what I can learn about our electricity consumption there.


Well, obviously I'm trying to minimise our usage of the tumble dryer. They're known to be high energy users.

According to the energy rating label on my 5kg Tumble Dryer it uses approximately 4.5kWh's per load. At a rate of 18c per kWh that adds up to around 80c a load.

I've always worked on a rule of thumb figure of $1 a load because that figure is going to be very approximate and well, saving $1 each time I hang a load on the line *sounds* so much better than 80c. :-)

I decided to do a small amount of research using to see whether tumble dryers have improved in technology (in terms of electricity efficiency) since ours was bought (about 10 years ago now) and was surprised to find that there hasn't been much change at all in this area. The *most* energy efficient 5kg load dryer I could find used around 3.9kWh and the equivalent to ours (by brand) uses 4.4kWh's.

I then did some playing around with figures to see if different sized dryers made a difference by calculating how many kWh's it would take me to dry 10kg of clothing. I used only vented dryers and used the calculations for the most energy efficient dryer so these results are approximate and would vary from brand to brand.

Here's what I came up with:

3.5 kg 8.08kWh
4kg 6.8kWh
5kg 7.8kWh
6kg 7.9kWh
6.5kg 7.1kWh
8kg 8.15kWh
9kg 9.24kWh
10kg 8.52kWh

My conclusions? When my dryer needs replacing I'm going to look into purchasing a 4kg dryer rather than a 5kg dryer. Of course, the figures may have all changed by the time I'm in the market for a dryer but it's interesting to consider that not all SIZES come out evenly when it comes to overall electricity consumption. And when it comes to tumble dryers, bigger isn't necessarily better.

Not having a tumble dryer at all is possibly a better option again but I prefer for now to concentrate on making changes that don't create too large an inconvenience for our family. There are times when it just seems to be "necessary" or at the very least "very helpful" to own a tumble dryer.


When we made the decision to move to this farm, we also made the decision to go out and purchase a front loader washing machine. Thankfully these days they actually work out cheaper than top loading machines. When we originally bought our top loading machine they were still MUCH more expensive. We didn't have the luxury in those days of purchasing for "later savings" (ie. we were broke) and really weren't as aware of environmental factors as a factor in purchasing decisions at that point in our lives.

Like I said in my Blog Action Day post, "when we know better, we do better".

Now the BIG advantage of front loading washing machines is their lower use of water. Here in Australia that is an even MORE important consideration than electricity consumption. If you need more convincing, you might like to read an article written by Snoskred called Humans Let Us All Waste Water .

They also use less detergent, don't wear out clothes as quickly and strangely enough tend to use less electricity. I say "strangely enough" because their wash times are longer. I did a bit of investigating and I *think* the energy savings come in when you wash in warm water. I guess because you use less warm water so less costs involved in heating a larger quantity of water.

Regardless, I am really pleased that we have a front loading washing machine. Ours costs us around 11c per load (0.63kWh) in electricity. Only a small savings if we can reduce the number of loads we wash but small savings can add up to become bigger savings.


Using the iron costs around 11.9c per hour to run (based on 15c per kWh so more for me as we pay a little over 18c per kWh here). A simple way to solve this energy usage would be to not iron. LOL. I still can't get my head around the fact that some people *really* don't iron.

Apparently it's most energy efficient to do the ironing all in one hit as the iron then only has to heat up once. In all honesty, my iron seems to take about 1 minute to heat up and I often start ironing with something that doesn't require quite as much heat so I think the difference would be negligable and I do prefer to iron in smaller stints of 15 minutes (sound familiar? LOL). I guess that is still preferable to ironing each garment individually.

Running the iron on steam setting is supposed to use more electricity but then you have to weigh that up against possible taking longer to iron garments. I have to admit I do like my steam.

So, have we learnt anything from all of this? I just did a quick calculation and at 7 loads of washing per week and about 3/4 hour of ironing, my laundry is responsible for about 5kWh's of electricity per week. Not as big a draw on our power as I was expecting it to be really.

If you were to add just 1 load of tumble dryer in per week you'd double that usage to around 10kWh's per week. If I dried all 7 loads of washing in the tumble dryer (that would be almost 50kg of clothing so 10 dryer loads) we're talking around 50kWh's per week (with only 5kWh's of those being NON DRYER appliances).

It's certainly very easy to spot the culprit in the laundry when it comes to electricity consumption!!!!


Marita said...

Hi thank you for visiting my blog.

Interesting laundry research.

I ended up shifting our tumble drier out of the laundry and into the garage. That certainly forces me to think about using it as I have to walk outside to get into the garage (and find the garage door key).

Will I get into trouble if I admit I'm one of those people who doesn't iron? The only things that get ironed in our house are my husbands work shirts and he does those. I do try to buy non-iron clothing and fold things straight off the line so they don't get a chance to wrinkle.

I love my front loader washing machine. We do about 2 loads of washing each day and I find it much easier on my back than the old top loader. Plus it is an easy way to entertain children - just sit them infront of it and point out a piece of clothing they need to keep an eye on :Grin:

lightening said...

Good idea with the dryer!

I envy you with the ironing. I know, it's self inflicted but I've never been able to get the hang of not ironing.

Anonymous said...

Our last washing machine was a 7kg Whirlpool front loader recommended by Choice and it was a *disaster*. It cost us hundreds in maintenance costs, along with being more expensive to begin with (we bought it in 1999) and constantly flooded the laundry floor to the extent that we had to get the flooring replaced. We got rid of it in 1993 after less than four years.

Now we have a Fisher & Paykel top loader which does use more water but has so-far been trouble free (it was also about 1/2 the price of the front-loader). When I had my last baby it was much better for tipping the nappy bucket straight in too!

If this one dies I would reconsider a top loader but it would have to be large enough for our big family and competitively priced.


Kin said...

I love love LOVE my front loader. The absolute best part is my kids can load and unload it for me. My 4 year old is almost able to put the powder in.

I am ashamed to admit I use a dryer more often than I should, but at least I do have the *most* energy efficient one available *grin*. It really depends on the house as to weather I use the dryer more than I should. I hang shirts on a rack which is easily moved inside and out depending on the weather, and I also hang socks and jocks on a special hanger, so really it's only the kids clothes and our pants (which are mostly denim anyway) that go in the dryer, and that does save me on ironing costs.

Snoskred said...

Our Red House - Good Luck with that Fisher and Paykel. :( Having worked in the industry I would never, ever, not in a million years purchase one. They also were one of the companies flat out lying to consumers about how much water their machines used - putting it as water use per fill, and not mentioning there were 3 fills per wash. With their 7.5 kg using 90 litres per fill, it makes me shudder to think that machine is wasting water all over Australia because a lot of people bought them thinking they were excellent at using less water - and the majority of salespeople did not tell them otherwise. ;( That's because the salespeople were getting paid a "spiv" per machine sold, sometimes up to $50 per machine.

They are now continuing the tradition of telling porky pies with their new "top load front load" which got an excellent water rating on the eco cycle. Unfortunately your clothes would come out more dirty than when they went in on that cycle, but that isn't something that is tested. They just test how much water it uses.

Honestly it makes me so furious that people get the Sydney Water rebate for buying these machines which are not going to be using the eco cycle regularly. No person in their right mind would wash using that cycle.

I strongly suggest purchasing a Miele front load next time. You won't believe how much cleaner your clothes turn out. They are not cheap, no - but they are excellent and very reliable.

As far as ironing.. I have a Laura Star which is absolutely incredible. ;) I couldn't even think of using one of those normal irons now.

Marita said...

Interesting comments about the Fisher and Paykel Snoskred. My SIL has had no end of problems with her Fisher and Paykel DishDraw dishwasher and spends more time washing dishes by hand - often after they have been through the machine. Heard similar comments from the fridge seal repair guy when he came to repair our Fisher and Paykel fridge/freezer seals. I'd never purchase another one of their products again.

We got an LG 7.5kg front loader as it was the top Choice Magazine recommendation at the time of purchase.

lightening said...

Our old top loader was a Fisher Paykel and we got along fine with it. However, our clothes definitely get cleaner now that we have a front loader.

snoskred - thanks for your added input. :-) Would love to buy a Miele one day. I know they're supposed to be worth their money - it's just so hard to come up with the extra at the time (and then part with it lol). I'll have to google Laura Star as I'm not familiar with it.

Marita - sounds like yours is similar to ours. :-)