Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Reducing Operating Cost of Appliances


While there have been some leaps in laundry appliances, unfortunately very little has been in the way of drying clothes. A clothes dryer is very little different that one from years ago. It is still a very inefficient process of electrical resistance heating for electric dryers or an electric flame for gas dryers. There are however some things that can be done to maximize the efficiency of the dryer:

1. Don’t overload. This seem obvious but newer washers can often wash more that a dryer can practically dry. Keep the load reasonable.
2. Keep the lint filter clean. Check before each load. For heavy lint bearing items such as towels or blankets it may be necessary to clean mid-cycle.
3. Run the dryer back-to-back. Running multiple cycles help utilize the hot dryer.
4. Make sure that exhaust vents and ducts are clean and unobstructed. A quality dryer flexible duct is less likely to collapse or crimp closed than a cheaper duct. Opt for the better flex duct. Dryer booster fans bay also help for long runs of exhaust ducting.
5. Capturing the heat from dryer exhaust seems like a no-brainer but there are several problems including high moisture content of the exhaust air, lint in the air, etc. There is some development in place for heat recovery especially in commercial and institutional laundries. Some even advertise 40-50% reduction in fuel and reduced drying time. Rototherm is one such source.

Although dryer technology hasn’t changed much per se, dryers have become inherently more efficient from more efficient washing machines. Newer washers use less water, wash clothes better and most importantly spin water from the clothes much better. Spin speeds on some modern washers exceeds 1000 rpm. The more water that is removed in the spin cycle, the less is required to be removed in the dryer. Still, there are some tips at improving the efficiency and lowering the cost of doing laundry:

1. Don’t overload. Although many new washers have larger capacities than older models this doesn’t mean that you should overload. Overloading can prevent the laundry from getting clean causing a re-wash.
2. Use cold water for washing when possible and for rinsing always. Modern washing machines and newer high efficiency detergents normally don’t need warm or hot water. Use cold water when possible.
3. Re-spin if necessary. If the laundry isn’t spun out completely re-run the spin cycle. This especially helps with older washing machines with lower spin speeds. The cost of the extra spin cycle pales in comparison to the high cost of drying the extra water in the clothes.
4. Investigate newer front load or high efficiency top-load machines. Both offer similar spin speeds and water removal benefits. Front load washers also offer the bonus of less abrasion and thus less wear on clothes helping them last longer.


Surprisingly the refrigerator isn’t a huge electrical cost if it’s fairly modern. A new refrigerator (2000 or newer) cost an average of $50-75 per year to operate. However, older units can easily cost 2-3 times that amount. There are some tips to minimizing the cost of refrigeration.

1. Keep the coils clean and unobstructed. The refrigerator and freezer have condenser coils located either underneath or on the back. Keep the area in front of the door and around the back unobstructed to keep adequate air flow. This helps the refrigerator run less to keep the box cool. Also, frequently check and clean any lint form the coils. Some units have a fan to blow air across the coils. This helps cool the condenser but also pulls in lint. Check this every 3-6 months and vacuum as necessary.
2. Keep the refrigerator full. This may sound counter-intuitive but a full refrigerator is more efficient that an empty one. Food and drinks in the refrigerator hold their cooler temperature better than the air inside. When you open the door the air inside quickly gets warmer. The food and drinks inside aren’t as quick to warm up. They actually act as a sort of “cool sink” to help hold the cool air inside the box. If you are single or normally keep very little in the refrigerator, consider filling milk jugs or other containers with water. This will help improve the efficiency of the unit.
3. Chest freezers are more efficient than your combination refrigerator. Consider getting a chest freezer and minimizing the use of your combination unit. Chest freezers actually keep food longer because they normally aren’t frost free. The defrosting cycle in a freezer compartment of a combination freezer actually heats the air periodically inside the unit to melt any accumulated ice on the sides. A chest freezer doesn’t do this so the food remains frozen solid the entire time.

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