As the end of the semester nears something that weighs on my mind is laundry. It’s something we all do, and how much of it we do will undoubtedly impact our energy consumption. Hand washing and line drying may be the most eco and budget-friendly options for doing laundry, but the truth is our busy schedules and geographic location have made these greener practices unfeasible. Currently my dorm room is covered with clothes, the “clean” and wrinkled heaps have begun to cover the floor, while the neglected and dirty fill the two baskets in my closet. Clearly this is an issue, an issue resulting from bad habits and laziness, and the absolute last thing I would do is hand wash them. Without a doubt this mess will influence the amount of laundry I do this weekend, meaning I will use more detergent, water, money, and ultimately more energy.
It is pretty obviously that part of the issue originates from an organizational standpoint, but I want to argue that there is still a way to undo some of this damage and reduce my energy consumption in the future.
Wash with cooler water
Cold-water washing won’t just save you money, it is also known to keep colors bright, reduce wrinkling, and won’t set stains. According to the Alliance to Save Energy, about 90 percent of the energy consumed by your washing machine is used just to heat the water.
“Using cold water instead of hot, for one year can save enough energy to run an average home for up to two weeks”
– The Alliance to Save Energy
Something to note: If you find that your usual detergent isn’t cleaning as effectively with your cold-water loads, look for specifically engineered cold-water detergents that are made to clean in cooler temperatures.
Run full loads
Regardless of how full they are, the washer and dryer use the same amount of mechanical energy, so the most efficient way to save energy is to run full loads of laundry. When the occasion occurs when you need to run a smaller load–it happens–be sure to use the appropriate water-level setting for the load size.
Learn about your machine’s energy saving settings
Take advantage of the washer and dryer’s energy-saving settings, such as a washer’s “high spin” option, which can dramatically reduce drying time. Avoid running the sanitary cycle that use excessive energy by heating the water to high temperatures.
Also, consider the length of time your clothes need to be washed; many loads only need 10 minutes of washing to get the job done.
When drying clothes, be sure to use lower temperature setting for delicates, and medium heat for typical clothes. Always use your dryer’s moisture sensor, if it has one, to prevent over-drying, which shrinks clothes, causes unnecessary wear, and static electricity.
Turn down the water heater
The default temperature setting for your water heater is usually 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which actually provides water that is too hot for most residential needs. Set your water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and you’ll be saving energy even when you wash clothes in hot or warm water.
You can save between 3-5 percent in energy costs for each 10 degree reduction in water temperature.
Dry similar fabrics together
Dry towels and heavier cottons in their own separate load, then use the residual heat for lighter-weight, faster-drying clothes.
Clean the lint filter
After each load, clean the lint screen in your dryer to improve air circulation, reduce drying time, these simple practices will save energy and prevent fires.
Hang out clothes to dry
Even with a busy schedule and local weather making it difficult to line dry clothes purchasing an indoor drying rack for delicate fabrics such as silks, or using it for “almost-dry” clothes, rather than running the dryer for additional time is an effective way to save money and energy.
Look for efficiency
If it’s time to replace your old washing machine, look for washers with the EPA Energy Star label. Energy Star washing machines use 37 percent less energy and 50 percent less water than their conventional counterparts, obviously saving you hundreds of dollars over the life of the machine.
Energy Star does not certify clothes dryers because most of them use similar amounts of energy, so look for dryers with moisture sensors that automatically shuts off the machine when your clothes are dry.
Lastly, don’t forget to recycle your old washers and dryers. Most major appliance retailers will haul away the old machines for recycling when they deliver the new ones.
Because washing our clothes is a necessary process for maintaining hygiene, it is critical that we evaluate and restrict our energy use when doing so. Laundry isn’t going away anytime soon, so until then, conserving and being responsible is not only good for your wallet, but key to the overall improvement of our planets.