Although laundry may not seem like a significant expense in the grand scheme of your yearly budget, the laundry room is by far one of the most energy and money-guzzling rooms in the home. The average American family does nearly 400 loads of laundry per year, and with all those loads come the costs of electricity, water, laundry detergent, fabric softener and all the other things involved in your laundry routine.
Thankfully, those costs aren’t set in stone. Here are a few energy-efficient ways to save money in the laundry room:
Use cold water: Nearly 90% of the energy used by a washing machine goes into heating the water. Unless you’re washing super-greasy, grimy clothes, the cold or warm setting on your washing machine will typically do the job just fine. By simply using cold water, you can cut the energy you use to wash a load of clothes in half. You can even look for detergents specifically formulated for cold water.
Use less detergent: Most people use far more detergent than they actually need, thinking that more detergent equals cleaner clothes. Not so. Too much detergent actually prevents the water from adequately rinsing away dirt and stains. Unless your clothes are heavily soiled, use the lowest line on the laundry cap to measure out your detergent.
Be choosy about your machines: If you’re lucky enough to have a say in your washer and dryer and are in the market for a new machine, look for a “green,” energy-efficient model that meets the needs of your household. If your average load of laundry is somewhat small, for example, then choose a smaller model that uses significantly less water.
Look for a dryer that includes a moisture sensor that automatically shuts off your machine once the clothes are dry. Some machines have an air-dry feature that uses cold air to dry clothes, which greatly reduces overall energy use.
Finally, consider an eco-friendly Energy Star certified washing machine, which can use as much as 40% less energy and up to 70% less water than an average model. The majority of full-sized Energy Star washing machines use around 18-25 gallons of water for each load, compared to the whopping 40 gallons that standard machines use.
Get some fresh air: Obviously, line-drying is the “greenest” way to dry clothes. Besides, sunshine and fresh air is free! Depending on where you live, try hanging your clothes outdoors on a clothesline and letting them dry naturally in the sun. If you rent an apartment or don’t have much space outdoors, simply place a clothes-drying rack near a sunny open window.
Sort fabrics: It’s a basic rule of laundry, but it bears repeating: Mixing all your clothes together and throwing them in the washing machine is never a good idea. Properly sort your laundry according to textures and colors for best results. Separating whites, lights, colors, darks, towels and delicates is best. Wash like items together and dry them in a similar manner. However, wait until you get a full load of each group before tossing them in the wash.
Use residual heat: You can save both time and money by arranging your laundry schedule so that you can dry multiple loads during each laundering session. Not only will you save a great deal of energy by using a dryer that’s already heated, but you’ll also save time by washing multiple loads at once.