Use summer sun to save energy and money on your laundry

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Community Outreach representative Rafael de Mesa encourages customers to consider hanging laundry outside this summer.

You can find savings by cutting back and having smart habits

Posted by Rafael de Mesa

In the summer, many of us like to spend time outdoors and enjoy as much of the sun as possible. This can mean that our clothes attract stains faster, from camping dirt to barbecue sauce and grass stains. And you're more likely to get sweaty and reach for a fresh change of clothes before dinner. It's always nice to put on a fresh set of clothing, but more frequent laundry can also mean consuming a lot of electricity. By doing your laundry as efficiently as possible, you can save energy and money on your next bill.

Keep water cold to maximize savings

Did you know that 90 per cent of a washing machine's energy consumption goes toward heating the water? If you wash about 3 loads of laundry per week, you can save up to $27 per year on your energy bill just by changing from hot to cold water. As an added bonus, washing in cold can make your clothes last longer since it is gentler on the fabrics and causes less colour fading. Many specialty fabrics (like moisture-wicking exercise clothes or delicate lightweight summer clothes) recommend washing in cold — check the label to be sure.

Most detergents available today ensure great performance in your washing machine even when using cold water. So consider switching most of your loads to cold, unless they need that extra boost from warm water. And always rinse in cold if your machine offers the option.

Cut down on washing

One of the easiest ways to save energy when doing laundry is trying to do less laundry. Try to reduce the number of laundry loads that you do per week. You obviously can't stop doing laundry altogether, but only wash your clothes when they're actually dirty, and not out of habit after each wearing. Avoid doing partial loads of laundry. A partial load uses the same amount of electricity as a full load. If possible, wait until you can fill the washer to capacity in order to reduce your energy consumption.

Make use of smart settings and options on your machine

Most clothes washers come with a manual with information on how to operate the appliance as efficiently as possible. Check for instructions on how much detergent should be put into the machine. Putting too much detergent can make the washer work harder than need be, which also means that more energy is used. The detergents available today are generally much more efficient than older formulas, and you need less to get your clothes clean. That's especially true if you have a high-efficiency machine — check for a high-efficiency label on your detergent, and use less of it.

And remember to adjust the water levels to match the size of the load if your machine has variable settings. If a partial load is unavoidable, set the water level lower. Always set your machine to the shortest washing time and reduce the number of rinse cycles. Changing these settings can lead to significant energy savings.

Choose ENERGY STAR® appliances for maximum savings

When it's time to buy a new washing machine, a front-loading washer offers higher energy performance than a top-loading machine, and always choose an ENERGY STAR model, which are tested by a third party for efficiency and reliability. Front-loading machines can handle bigger loads, which can save you time by cutting down the number of loads needed.

ENERGY STAR clothes washers have a high Modified Energy Factor (MEF), which means that they use less energy per cycle, consume less hot water, and leave less moisture on the clothing after the washing cycle. Less moisture on your clothes means less time is needed to dry, which is a big step in saving money and energy.

Hang to dry for fresh clothes and savings

Did you know that your clothes dryer consumes the most energy per use out of all household appliances? Take advantage of the summer weather and hang your clothes to dry instead. If you don't want to hang your unmentionables outside, or bylaws in your area prohibit clotheslines, get an indoor clothes drying rack. They come in all sizes and most are collapsible for easy storage, making them convenient even for small spaces and apartments. If you hang four out of eight loads of laundry per week, you could save $45 a year. And hanging clothes to dry can reduce shrinkage and fabric wear too.

More drying tips

When you absolutely need to use your dryer, there are several ways to make it run more efficiently. For instance, if you add a large dry towel with the wet load into the dryer, the towel can help absorb moisture and decrease drying time. Using dryer balls can also help by shortening the drying time by up to a third. As with the washing machine, it's a good idea to make sure that your dryer is set to run at optimal efficiency. Always keep the dryer lint trap and ventilation ducts clean to ensure proper airflow. Turn on the dryer's moisture sensor to prevent over-drying and excess energy use. Finally, try the "perma-press" setting, which uses cool air instead of heat to dry the clothes towards the end of the cycle.

Rafael de Mesa is a Community Outreach representative with BC Hydro who educates customers in the Lower Mainland about ways to save energy and money.