How to lower your power bill – laundry edition
By efficiently doing laundry, you may be able to lower your power bill.
Everything is bigger in Texas, but that’s not always a good thing when it comes to higher power bills from doing laundry. When ranking which U.S. states use the most electricity per household, Texas came in 5th place, consuming 1,203 kWh per month. To put this in perspective, Arkansas consumes 1,083 kWh per month, New Mexico consumes 631kWh per month, and California consumes 547 kWh per month.
High Texas temperatures mean your HVAC runs almost year-round. However, laundry is also a big source of energy use. According to the EPA, dryers use the most energy among standard appliances. Refrigerators and washing machines use about the same amount of energy – although it’s important to remember that the fridge runs continuously.
You certainly can’t stop doing laundry. Here are a few tips for saving energy – and money – when washing and drying your clothes and linens.
Since your dryer is the biggest energy hog, it’s important to maximize the dryer’s efficiency. Following are a few ways that you can make sure your dryer is doing its best work.
According to Ron Shimek, president of Mr. Appliance, it’s necessary to clear your dryer vent for a few reasons. “First, a clogged dryer vent can create fire hazards,” he says. “Secondly, having a clean flowing airway for your dryer means it doesn’t have to work as hard, or run as long to dry your clothes.” This means that your dryer won’t need to use as much energy. Also, don’t confuse the dryer vent with the lint trap. The dryer vent is the metal duct that transports lint and hot air from your dryer through an exterior wall.
You probably had the correct ducting when you first purchased your dryer, but sometimes people make do with what they have (or what they can quickly find at the local big box store). “Be sure to research the specific requirements for your appliance,” Shimek warns. “Also, if you are moving into a rented home or apartment, be sure you or an appliance expert inspects and checks the dryer to make sure it has been properly installed before using.”
You should get in the habit of cleaning the lint filter before you run a load of clothes instead of afterwards. If you get in the habit of cleaning it afterwards, you may forget after that last load. “It’s easy to forget when you’re in a hurry, and it seems like just one more thing to do before that load of laundry is done,” Shimek explains. However, he says a clean lint filter means your dryer doesn’t have to work as hard, and more air flows out of the exhaust vent, which makes the dryer operate more efficiently.
Time may not always permit you to wash and dry all of your clothes at one time. “When you can, dry batches back to back, so the appliance doesn’t cool off completely before you turn it back on,” Shimek advises. If the dryer retains some of its heat, it won’t need as much to dry the following loads.
Fortunately, winter doesn’t last long in Texas. However, when doing laundry, don’t forget that winter clothes are a lot heavier than summer clothes. “This amounts to more loads of laundry, but you can still have a more energy-efficient washing machine this winter,” Shimek says.
Shimek recommends running full batches of laundry, instead of a partially full machine. “When you just can’t wait until you get a full load, set the water level lower for smaller loads,” he says.
“Also, use cold water for as many batches as possible,” Shimek says. Most of the energy used in your washing machine is devoted to heating the water. However, cold water is sufficient to wash most clothes, and can also cut down on wrinkles – which can reduce the amount of time you spend ironing afterwards.
“Use HE (high-efficiency) detergent for HE machines to prevent oversudsing, which can leave residue on your clothes and require a rewash,” Shimek says.
Terri Williams is a freelance journalist with bylines at The Economist, USA Today, Yahoo, the Houston Chronicle, and U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.