Washing clothes in a ringer washing machine

When we first bought Voyageur Canoe Outfitters in 1993 the previous owner only had a ringer washing machine. He had three trailers that he rented out and those required linens for the guests. To make matters worse, at least in my mind, was the fact the washing machine was across the river and up a hill located in a shed. When it was time for laundry to be done I had to load up a Duluth Pack with dirty laundry, hop in a boat, zip across the river and walk up the hill.

Hauling the dirty laundry up the hill was much easier than hauling the wet laundry back down the hill. Sometimes I’d hang it out on a line across the river but that required another trip back to take the laundry off of the line. If I hauled the wet laundry back across then there was a dryer I could use.

Today I don’t think too much about doing laundry. It’s an easy task to wash and dry things because I have the two machines right next to each other. When I was little I had school clothes and after-school clothes that I had to change into when I got home from school. My nice clothes didn’t have to get washed as often that way. I know my kids pretty much throw their stuff into the wash even if they only wear an outfit for a minute or two.

It would be nice to build a house with direct access outside from the laundry room to a big clothesline in the yard. Until then I’ll have to try some of the energy saving ideas from the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

Don’t lose your shirt to high utility bills: Some energy-saving laundry tips

The typical U.S. household cleans and dries about 300 loads of laundry in a year, consuming a lot of energy in the process.

Washers and dryers, along with refrigerators, are the biggest energy users among household appliances. Dryers use about 769 kilowatt hours (kWh) a year on average, while washers use 590 kWh and refrigerators average 596 kWh, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

That means there is plenty of opportunity to reduce energy consumption, and save money, when doing your laundry.

If your washer or dryer is 12-14 years old (the expected lifetime for those appliances) and starting to show its age, consider shopping for an energy-efficient ENERGY STAR replacement washer or dryer that will save you money over the long term.

The Minnesota Commerce Department and U.S. Department of Energy also offer these energy-saving laundry tips:

Wash with cold water. Using warm water instead of hot can cut a load’s energy use in half, while using cold water will save even more.

Wash full loads. Your washer will use about the same amount of energy no matter the size of the load, so fill it up.

Dry right-sized loads for your machine. If the dryer is too full, it will take longer for the clothes to dry.

Air dry when you can. Hang laundry outside to avoid using the dryer altogether.

Clean the lint filter on your dryer. The dryer will run more efficiently and safely.

Use lower heat settings in the dryer. Even if the drying cycle is longer, you will use less energy and be less likely to over-dry your clothes.

Use the moisture sensor option if your dryer has one. Many new dryers come with a moisture sensor that automatically shuts off the machine when clothes are dry. This will save energy and reduce wear and tear on your clothes.

View more energy-saving laundry tips from the U.S. Department of Energy, or check out the Appliances section (pages 56-58) of the Minnesota Commerce Department’s Home Energy Guide (mn.gov/commerce-stat/pdfs/home-energy-guide.pdf).

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