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For many New Zealanders, the month of June means the clothes dryer is put into action. Dryers can vary greatly in terms of efficiency, but can be as costly as $1.00 per load - this makes it potentially a very expensive household appliance. Washing machines, too, can become pricey with frequent, long or warm water loads. With just a few wet days, we can end up with a ‘laundry pile up’ which can lead to more expensive washing habits. So let’s have a look at how you might reduce your washing electricity costs with some simple tips.

Choose the right washing machine

Washing machines have made our lives much more efficient and making the right choice in washing machine now will save you in the long run.

One of the first, and fastest ways to sort through the huge range of washing machine options are rating systems displayed on the appliance itself. All NZ whiteware features the ‘Energy Rating Label’ it is a simple 1- 6 star rating label – the more stars, the more energy efficient it is. Most machines available in NZ now have a 4+ star energy rating. Beyond efficiency there’s also NZ's Water Efficiency Labelling Scheme (WELS). WELS shows how many ‘litres per wash’ is used. Buying a lower-rating product might be cheaper upfront, but can cost you, and the environment, hundreds of extra litres of water in the long run!

Compare different models, but make sure they’ve got similar specifications. Comparing different weight capacities will give you inconsistent information on which to make your purchasing decision. 

Choose a machine suitable for your family – 6-8kg is good for a family of 4+ and a 5kg machine is ample for a couple. Too large a machine can result in half loads, and a smaller machine can result in excessive multiple loads – which means unnecessary extra water/electricity usage. And that sort of defeats the purpose of buying a new machine!

Using the washing machine more efficiently

Let’s start with the basics. Cold washes use less electricity that warm. In fact, according to Energywise, warm washes use up to 10x more energy than cold, which they estimate could add up to 20c - 40c extra per load of washing. Have a think about whether a warm wash is really necessary. Many modern washing machines and detergents get similar results with cold wash. Of course check the labels of your clothes to make sure you’re selecting the appropriate setting. We’d suggest going with cold unless absolutely necessary.

While we might think about the ‘line’ or dryer when it comes to drying our washing, the washing machine itself can contribute to drying time and cost. Washing machines with spin speeds over 1000 rpm will remove a decent amount of water from laundry, thus resulting in a shorter drying time in the dryer or on the line or rack.

Some machines offer an ‘eco’ setting which uses less water. Make sure to read the manual of your machine to ensure you’re using the eco setting for the right size of load and types of garments. In most cases this should be a safe option. But another mode that modern washing machines offer is ‘auto sensing’. These auto settings can gauge how much washing you’ve loaded and use a level of water that’s appropriate. Very helpful if you feel like you’re using too much water/electricity on washing loads. 

Weigh up the benefits of top vs. front loader


Top Loader

Here are just a few upsides and downside of the Top Loader washing machine form factor.

Pros

Cons

Faster cycle times

More water usage

Cold and Hot water supply connections

Less energy efficient on warm washes

Can add more small items clothes to load once started (early on)

Often need more water and more detergent

Often better rinse performance than a front loader 

Generally noisier than Front Loaders

Front Loader

Consider the front-loading option? Here are some things to consider:

Pros

Cons

Less water usage than top loaders

Longer cycle times

Often more energy efficient for warm washes

Some front loaders may not have hot water connection which rules out heating from alternative power sources like solar.

Usually much quieter than their top loader counterparts.

Can be smaller in capacity that top loaders (although this may be a positive for homes light on space).

Gentler on clothes

Unless your machine has this as a special feature you’ll be unable to add or remove clothes during the early stage of cycle.


Really your decision to buy a top loader or front loader is going to come down to your individual situation. You should be able to find energy efficient, easy to use machines in either style. Small apartments with cupboard-based laundry spaces may opt for front loaders given their often more compact footprint. Alternatively if you’ve got a decent size laundry or garage area, the benefits of a top loader may suit you better. 

What we didn’t mention in the Pros and Cons was access. If you’re unable to mount a front loader at chest height, and have to place it on the ground, then consider whether bending down to load and unload the front loader is still workable. Top loaders by design are at a good waist height to load washing into. If you’ve got back or joint issues, this is certainly something to weigh up in your purchasing decision.

Getting smart about drying clothes

Dryers, they can be a love/hate relationship. Yes they’re useful on wet, rainy days. But they can also add noticeably to the power bill - and can be unforgiving on delicate garments!

Get prepared for drying during the winter season with these tips:

Dry clothes outside

Dry your clothes, towels and bed clothes outside whenever possible. Sure, with Winter comes days with poor weather, but there are days where the sun’s shining. Why dry clothes outside? Well, from a cost perspective, minimising dryer usage you can save over $100 a year depending on your usage. But there’s more reasons to dry outside - natural sunlight kills bacteria in your washing, making for a more hygienic home environment. UV rays help to whiten and disinfect your laundry (just consider drying your darks in a shady spot).

And then there’s the benefit of fresh air - washing dried in the sun will smell and feel better. We’ve all likely experienced the difference between fresh-smelling clothes, sheets and towels and those that have been dried in the dryer, or worse - inside on a rack!

Even if you can’t get your laundry totally dry on the line, partially drying it outside will reduce how long you need to run your dryer for.

Compare dryers’ energy ratings

As with washing machines, dryers have different levels of energy efficiency. Compare models with ‘Energy Star Ratings’ to select the most energy efficient appliance within your budget and household’s needs. How much power is drawn to heat and ventilate the clothes drying will weigh into this rating, along with the time of the drying cycle.

Auto sensing 

Dryers too, have auto-sensing and timer capabilities. These modes allow the dryer to prevent over-drying and using unnecessary electricity. 

Wetter clothes, longer drying time

It’s common sense, but we sometimes forget that dryers are essentially removing the moisture from clothes, sheets and towels. You can greatly reduce dryer time by making sure loads are properly spun in the washing machine. Then, once the washing load is finished, look for any items still quite wet and wring the water out by hand as much as possible. It’s cheaper to spin clothes, than to dry very wet clothes in the dryer.

Separate types of laundry

By separating out ‘heavy’ laundry, e.g. jeans, towels, jerseys from lighter items like underwear and t-shirts, you’re able to be more efficient with drying. Do a load of lighter garments on a shorter cycle, and then a longer load for the heavier items, as they take longer to dry. This includes the washing machine stage - towels together, underwear and t-shirts together, bedclothes together - each will need different settings and time to wash and dry. 

Remember, for some items of clothing, it’s strongly advised to dry on the line or rack rather than by machine as this can cause damage or shrinkage. We’ve said it before but we’ll say it again - check the labels always! And of course, never mix bright colours with whites - particularly for new clothing.

Keep the dryer well ventilated and lint filter clean

This is not only smart for energy efficiency but more importantly, a matter of safety. It’s very dangerous to run a dryer that’s not ventilated, in a cramped placed or with a full linter filter. 

Lint filters capture the excess lint off washing and gather it into a compartment of the dryer. Dryer warning labels will usually advise to clear it before/after every use. So, make sure that you get into a habit of clearing the filter before every load you put on. Don’t rely on other people to have cleared it after a dryer load (although this is considerate!). A clogged lint filter is not only a safety risk but leads to inefficient drying.

Dryers come in a number of types, with varying ventilation solutions. There’s the ducted ventilation models, which get rid of excess warm, damp air via a pipe usually to outside of the house. If this ventilation is blocked or damaged in any way, it can end up sending moisture into your home - not great for the indoor environment. And worse, a blocked ventilation from a dryer can cause fires. Unfortunately house fires are commonly caused by faulty dryers.

Another type of dryer collects moisture as water into an internal tank. This tank, like a lint filter, needs to be emptied before every use. 

Laundry Equipment Maintenance and Longevity

Like our homes and vehicles, maintaining and servicing your washing machine/dryer not only makes your whiteware more energy efficient, but prolongs their lifespan. 

Here are some handy maintenance tips:

Overloading can cause duress on your washing machine. A packed load can prevent the laundry powder from circulating around clothes properly - resulting in still-dirty clothes and another wash!

Try to avoid having your washing and dryer machines close to each other. If they are, it’s difficult for the heat they generate to escape.

Cleaning the filter is a very important part of keeping your dryer working, make sure to wipe the filter screen and around the edges. It also pays to give the filter a deeper clean by submerging in water and giving it a light scrub to remove any fabric particles that have built-up over time.

Along with cleaning the filter, regularly clean around the drum and in the vents. Lint will build up over-time – reducing airflow and drying efficiency. 

Clean the dryer vent hose annually or immediately if you start to notice your clothes aren’t 100% dry.

Regular deep cleans of the washing machine, will remove built-up soap residue.  Built-up soap residue can leave your clothes feeling not-quite-clean. All you need is a cup of white vinegar, add that to a hot wash cycle (without clothes, obviously!) and then wipe the inside of the drum at the end of the cycle. 

Don’t overdo it on the Laundry powder/detergent. It can create a film, and over time can lead to blockages and water backups!

Always leave your washing machine door open between washes. This allows the machine to dry and keep mould at bay! 

With these simple maintenance tips you’re looking at a more energy efficient laundry routine and greater life expectancy of your appliance.

Going green in your laundry routine

Our clean laundry might be leaving a considerable carbon footprint. If we think a bit more efficiently about our washing habits, we’re likely helping the environment, too. According to LEARNZ, the average New Zealander uses more than 227 litres per day, with more than 20% of that water usage in the laundry. 

Below are some ways on how to be more conscious with laundry.

Cut down cycle time

If you can, pick quick cycles. Some machines now offer 15 and 30 minute cycles.

Soaking or hand-washing your clothes then placing in the washing machine to spin any excess water out, is not only an energy efficient move, but might actually be kinder to the item of clothing. Just make sure the clothing item will survive a spin cycle!

Greywater

If washing by hand, reuse the greywater - excess water from a washing cycle, basin or other non-toilet related ‘used’ water source. You can then wash the car, water the non-edible plants, or wash down the deck. You could even reuse it to flush the toilet.

If you want to really embrace sustainability, you can have a greywater system installed where the water used in the washing machine can be diverted from going straight into the sewer. Always use ‘greywater safe’ laundry products that are degradable and non toxic. You can even have a switch installed to whether the water is reused or diverted into the sewer system. 

Not all clothes need to be washed after one day

A lot of people get into the habit of; ‘wash and wear once.’ When in fact the garment isn’t dirty or smelly at all. Try spot cleaning, airing out. This way you’re saving energy and you won’t wear out your garment faster. Of course when it comes to underwear, socks and t-shirts you may lose friends by wearing the same thing day in, day out. But a sweatshirt, pants or cardigan may be perfectly fine for repeat use before a wash.

Soapnuts

‘Soap nuts’ are another alternative to other laundry products. Using soapnuts will save you some money and they are biodegradable, sustainable option. You will save water and energy, as you can ‘skip’ the rinse cycle - it doesn’t need to be rinsed off. Now, we’re not saying these are a full time replacement for, or as effective as standard laundry detergent and machines, but for some uses they’re worth investigating to somewhat reduce your washing appliance use.

Again, consider nature’s dryer - outdoors.

We’ve covered this earlier, but it’s far better on the environment (and pocket) to dry clothes outside in fresh air. This natural approach to drying is also much gentler on your clothes. The only energy you’ll be using is the 68 calories you've burnt hanging all that washing out! 

 

Find out how much you could save on power. Upload a bill and get a free estimate

Find out how much you could save on power. Upload a bill and get a free  estimate

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