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Your Home Environment Resource - University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County

Household Hints & HELP!

Saving Energy with Your Appliances

submitted by Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator
This article appeared in the January 11, 2004 Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper.

Did you know in a typical U.S. home, appliances are responsible for about 20% of the energy bills? Water heating uses 14% of the energy in homes — it is the third largest energy expense in the U.S. households. Clothes washers, dryers and dishwashers save time and personal energy, but they use natural resource energy to heat the water used to clean our clothes and dishes. In fact, almost all the energy used by clothes washers and dishwashers is for heating the water. So, how can we reduce this energy? This can be done by reducing the amount of hot water used and this in the end will also save money.

When it comes to laundry and dishwashing, the best energy-saving advice is to:

  • Do it right the first time, so you don’t have to re-wash clothes and dishes.

  • Do it efficiently, so you use the least amount of water and heat.

Research tells us the average household washes about 50 pounds of laundry per week, a typical household washes more than 6,000 articles of clothing in machines each year and the average person generates well over a quarter of a ton of dirty clothes per year.

With these facts it important to keep in mind these suggestions from the Soap and Detergent Association for energy efficient laundering.

  • Pretreat or presoak stains and heavy soils before washing to get the best stain removal without using extra hot water or re-washing.

  • Read and follow label directions for all laundry products

  • Start with the recommended amount of detergent. Use slightly more in hard water, for larger loads or for heavily-soiled clothes.

  • Choose a wash time and cycle suitable for the type of load. (Check your washer use and care guide.)

  • Wash a full load, but don’t overload the washer.

  • Match the water level to the load size. For examples, with a smaller load use a lower water level setting.

  • For the best cleaning and energy-savings, wash most loads in warm water and rinse all loads in cold water. Some lightly-soiled loads can be washed in cold water.

  • If the washer has a water return system, reuse the wash water for additional loads. Start with hot water, lightly-soiled items and the recommended amount of detergent. Add more detergent for each additional load.

  • Use a high spin speed for highly absorbent items, such as towels and sweat shirts, to help reduce drying time. The energy it takes to spin water out is less than the energy your drying uses to dry it out.

These drying suggestions are also helpful:

Drying Dos

  • Separate lightweight and heavyweight items for faster and more uniform drying.
  • Dry full loads. Small loads waste energy.
  • Reload the dryer while it’s still warm from a previous load to utilize the residual heat.
  • Clean the dryer’s lint screen after each load. Lint build up can increase drying time by limiting air flow.

Drying Don’ts

  • Don’t overload the dryer. The load should tumble freely for fast, wrinkle-free drying.
  • Don’t add wet items to a partially dried load.
  • Don’t overdry. Besides wasting energy, overdrying can give a stiff feel to some items and cause shrinkage in others.
  • Don’t let garments remain in the dryer after it has shut off. This can cause wrinkling - especially in permanent press articles, making ironing necessary.

Help save money and energy by doing your laundry efficiently.

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