Laundry is a constant chore at many of our homes. It eats up time and energy, but did you realize how much money it takes as well?
Because we all do it, it should not surprise you how much of our total energy consumption goes to laundry. Of the total energy consumed in washing that load of clothes, 75 percent is used to warm the water.
If you are like me, you learned to wash by putting the dirtiest garments in hot water and more delicate washables in cold water. But our equipment and our detergents have improved over the years. Washing in warm or water may not be necessary. About 60 percent of all Americans still wash their clothes in warm water, but recent research shows that it doesn’t make clothes cleaner.
It may be time to start washing your laundry in cold water. Consumer Reports says that switching from warm water to cold water will save you at least $60 a year and more than that in Alaska, where our energy rates are higher.
If everyone in the U.S. switched to cold water for their laundry for one year, it would save the amount of energy produced by the Hoover Dam in almost two years. So not only will you save in your home budget, you can help our country reduce its carbon footprint.
The most expensive step in laundry is still drying the clothes. You can reduce your energy and shorten the drying time by making sure that the spin cycle in the washer is working correctly. The drier clothes are when they go in the dryer, the quicker they will be dried.
Check the cycle you are using for drying. Switching to a dryness setting instead of a timed setting will save you money. The moisture sensor in the dryer will shut it off when the laundry is dry, and you’ll avoid those additional minutes that might result in overdry clothing. Overdrying causes wrinkling and wears out your clothes.
Keep the lint screen clean. Clean the screen after each cycle to increase the movement of air in the dryer. Once a month, rinse the dryer screen and scrub it with a brush, particularly if you are using dryer sheets; chemicals from the sheets are deposited on the screen, restricting airflow. Clean it completely so the air can freely exhaust.
Remove your clothing promptly when the cycle is finished. This will save you from those wrinkles that set in after the cycle is finished. Ironing is also another energy waster, both in personal energy and in heating that iron.
One way to reduce electric consumption when drying clothes is not to use the dryer at all. This time of year drying outside is a practical alternative. At colder temperatures, you might have to resort to drying inside. Either way, hanging clothing up and allowing it to dry naturally will save you money and energy.
Roxie Rodgers Dinstel is associate director of Cooperative Extension Service, a part of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, working in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Questions or column requests can be e-mailed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 907-474-7201